Albums rarely sound any more epic than the latest album from Berlin based prog rockers The Ocean. Eight albums into their career and The Ocean have delivered Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic an audio masterpiece that takes the listener to such heights it feels like the oxygen masks should be dropping from the ceiling. Before the music even starts the premise of this album is enough to make your head explode – an album that is inspired by The Phanerozoic eon which succeeded the Precambrian supereon, spanning a 500 million-year period leading to the present day, and it has witnessed the evolution and diversification of plant and animal life on Earth, and the partial destruction of it during 5 mass extinction events.
Of course given the traumatic events that the Earth went through during this period it is not hard to comprehend that this is a pretty bleak album – bleak in its tone, certainly not its mastery. Few albums in the past have made me feel like I am going on a journey like this album did. The album itself is relentless with opening track ‘The Cambrian Explosion’ hitting the listener with an overpowering electric sound that is further enhanced with strong piano… this track would not be out of place on the soundtrack of a Stanley Kubrick film.
From there the album explodes into life with ‘Cambrian II Eternal Recurrence’ which creates an absolute manic feel and tone made even more intense by the amazing growls of Loic Rossetti and the clean vocals that back him up. His growls become even more pained on ‘Ordovicium – The Glaciation of Gondwana’ and somehow the track just keeps building tempo as it goes on.
Of course the sounds of a prog rock band are forever evolving and there is a real shift on Phanerozoic I: Palaezoic when ‘Silurian – Age Of Sea Scorpions’ starts with a melodic opening that sees the instrumentals seemingly rise and fall with complete intensity throughout… again Rossetti’s vocals are a stand out. Then there is the really worldly feel of ‘Devonian – Nascent’ which has a clear Celtic feel in the beginning and then goes through a really schizophrenic change midway through when it suddenly seems to tap into The Tea Party’s middle eastern vibe.
‘The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse’ is short and sweet by The Ocean’s standards – a very rocky instrumental and it leads it to the grand finale ‘Permain – The Great Dying’ a song about loss that feels like a mini-album upon itself. This is a great crescendo that really tops off an amazing prog rock album that is destined to be loved by fans of the genre.
What The Ocean have created here is a real work of art. This is an amazing album that showcases a band that is at the peak of its game. It also reveals Robin Staps and Loic Rossetti as two of the finest vocalists going around. This is an absolutely amazing album.