Please welcome guest reviewer Didrik Mešiček, who was brought to us by our very own Hera, as he pens his thoughts on this release.
From the American south comes a romantic darkness in the form of Oceans Of Slumber, a thoroughly unique band blending death/doom with progressive metal. The sextet will be releasing their fourth full-length album Oceans of Slumber this week and I’ve been enamored by it ever since receiving it.
After their 2018 release, The Banished Heart, the band went through a major line-up change, which saw everyone but the drummer Dobber Beverly and the band’s vocalist, Cammie Gilbert, leave. Clearly this didn’t stop them, however, as they quickly assembled new musicians and produced this self-titled album.
This behemoth opens with an enchanting progressive track “The Soundtrack to My Last Day,” that’s at times reminiscent of Opeth, but with Gilbert’s sensual, emotional vocals adding her signature pathos. The song, much like this entire album, is one that takes the listener on a journey – from atmospheric and calm to proggy and then to death/doom as the guitarist Alexander Lucian adds his growls. “Pray for Fire” is a song that starts slowly and gently, but continues to ascend and finally climaxes with a spoken part from Cammie, in which she sounds like a vengeful goddess
bringing forth destruction. The first single of the album “A Return to the Earth Below” is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful piece that I’ve been playing a lot ever since its release and will easily make my list for top songs of 2020. The many feelings Cammie Gilbert manages to convey with her voice alone is simply enchanting. A dark and ominous intermezzo follows in the form of “Imperfect Divinity” before the album goes into its heaviest part, “The Adorned Fathomless Creation.” A chaotic death metal beginning shows off Beverly’s brilliant drumming combined with Lucian’s muffled growls before taking a tempo change and bringing Cammie to the forefront. It’s an extremely complex and layered piece that also features an interesting guitar solo and ends in fury.
“To the Sea” and “The Colors of Grace” are some of the calmest songs on the album, contrasting the “The Adorned Fathomless Creation” as the album strides into its second half. Mick Moss from Antimatter is a guest on the “The Colors of Grace,” a soulful ballad as guitars softly and playfully support him and Cammie in this emotional piece. The album continues with a sort of up-and-down tempo as another long and heavy track, “I Mourn These Yellowed Leaves,” is then followed by a lovely four-minute instrumental
piano-focused piece “September (Those Who Come Before)” that leaves the listener feeling sorrowful. The morose sentiments are overtaken by dread as growls open “Total Failure Apparatus,” a song in which they once again elegantly switch between the heaviness and softness, mixing romantic sadness with aggressive darkness.
The penultimate song, “The Red Flower,” is one of the heaviest here, providing a slow doomy feel throughout. Concluding the album is, as has become customary by now for the band, a cover – Type O Negative’s “Wolf Moon (Including Zoanthropic Paranoia).” The band definitely pays homage well to this classic, which has surely been a big influence in their own creative process. It might be blasphemy to say I enjoy Cammie’s voice more than Peter Steele’s original vocals in this song, so I won’t say it. It’s damn good though, and a great way to finish off this over 70-minute-long journey.
Summing up this record is both rather simple, yet impossible in a few sentences. It offers darkness and light, despair and hope, and a near schizophrenic relationship of the two intertwined in an endlessly beautiful and tragic dance. Oceans Of Slumber have continuously improved with every release and while The Banished Heart was already highly acclaimed, this self-titled release truly feels like another step forward for which the band will undoubtedly be rewarded with high marks in many end of the year lists.
– Didrik Mešiček