Oceans Ate Alaska
Review By Alexander Sievers
“No Oceans Ate Alaska, step away from that ledge! You have friends who care about you and fans whom want you to start making the exciting, aggressive metalcore we know you are capable of, for Christ’s sake!”
These are the thoughts that entered my mind when I first began listening through this young bands debut full-length, Lost Isles. The band’s first EP, Into The Deep, was quite good, however they seem to have somewhat stagnated musically. It’s as if the band stood at the edge of greatness, yet turned downwards towards a giant chasm, stared further down into a glaring portal that would take their brand of metalcore back by about five years in time, and then they took the fateful plunge.
Now, some bands do the dated metalcore sound of the mid naughties quite well, with Melbourne’s own Feed Her To The Sharks and scene trailblazers In Hearts Wake arguably doing it the best. That’s not to say that Oceans Ate Alaska are a bad band (they aren’t) or that this album doesn’t carry some real intensity to it (it does). What it says is that the song-writing is just hit and miss and it often isn’t engaging enough to, which to be fair, is a pretty hard fucking thing to do right.
Musically, the band are tight, though with some editing in whatever DAW you’re working in, any band can be “tight”. With typical, non-impactful breakdowns and rather uninspired dual vocal styles, the one saving grace of the album is the guitars. The riffs, the solos, and the effects used (whether they were printed on when recording or added in the mixing stage) are all great. There are moments of soaring and articulate melodies, and others of heavy, palm-muted riffs and open-string chugs. It’s like someone spliced together the guitars from Bleed From Within and metal progressives SikTh (all hail) in hopes of creating the ultimate specimen. Spoiler alert: they got some pretty damn good guitar playing here.
However what this album sorely lacks is a strong first half, and the all too frequent genre norms only make the first half dozen songs a real fucking chore to sit through. Once you do get to the far stronger second half there are some songs that try to offer new sounds by bringing in cleaner, more melodic sections. These were definitely the album’s better moments for me.
Equinox is a serene instrumental break, interjected with the weighty riffs and a booming rhythm section, and it’s arguably the most invigorating the band sound on the whole record. Entity and Linger also interject some melody and real dynamic playing into the mix, and it’s more than welcomed. Plus, it’s the closest the band get to ever being labeled ‘melodic hardcore’ with clean guitars and eerie, haunting screams. These were actually the real standout for me and I have a feeling it’ll be so for many others too. Mirage is a six-minute slog that only really redeems itself in the last half (much like this album as a whole) and despite the band going for a far bigger, anthem-like sound by the end; it’s too little, too late. Furthermore, the soft samples of distant thunder, rain and rolling wind do nothing but reinforce my opinion of dulling barrenness this album instills upon me when I listen through it. A less creative way for me to put that would be one massive “Meh.”
13 tracks really is a bit much, especially when the songs rarely offer anything new and practically repeat what the last track did. Peaks and nulls are great and can create come great contrast yet that seems to be a little few and far between for these guys. Lost Isles is one of those patience testers – it’s not bad, it just takes a while for it to get its arse into gear, and by then you may have stopped listening.