While there are many progressive heavy bands in existence within the world of metal there are few bands that stick out like the proverbial sore thumb like Germany’s The Ocean. Yet, contrarily I find it criminal that they remain largely unknown and unheard of! Hopefully with their freshly released latest album, 2020 will see them receive the accolades that is worthy of their absolute brilliance. Their ability to stand out from the rest is down to both the aural and visual representation created to artistically represent them. Seemingly in a class on their own, The Ocean create so many emotional responses when it comes to listening to their entire catalogue of now eight albums that they are impossible to not notice.
Each of The Ocean’s songs is a journey of discovery and evolution as has been their purpose and intent for over a decade. Meticulously crafting chapters of history as seen through our existence as humans but also the biography of this spinning ball of beauty and life that we exist upon. Beginning in 2018 was the first brilliant installment of a conceptual two album release – Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic. This was The Ocean’s interpretation of the Phanerozoic period (542 million years ago to 251 million years ago) on Earth where the continents began to break apart and continents began to form. The first vertebrates began to colonise land and plants became widespread. So an intricate and massive journey sculpted musically giving the bands listeners not only a history lesson but some of The Ocean’s finest work recorded to tape.
2020 sees The Ocean unleash the follow up – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic. Itself as a whole piece is divided into two parts. The first being, obviously the Mesozoic aeon (252 million years ago to about 66 million years ago) known as the age of the dinosaurs. So appropriately the opening track is “Triassic” which starts softly, a calm tribal feeling leads the listener gently where we hear the entire band in beautiful unison painting an image with the use of chords, vocals and beats that is unnoticeably repetitious which is in no way a bad thing. Moreso, “Triassic” draws the listener in with it’s hypnotic nature demanding our attention without losing focus or purpose. Founder and guitarist Robin Staps, along with bandmates, all round incredibly versatile vocalist Loïc Rossetti, amazing drummer Paul Seidel accompanied by Mattias Hägerstrand on Bass, David Ramis Åhfeldt (guitar) and rounding out with Peter Voigtmann on synths have without question sonically realised the bands initial intention of allowing a single album to be more than the sum of just songs but a full piece, designed to be an experience that will soon become an emotional attachment to those that hear it. Song two is quite the epic; thirteen and a half minutes of sheer magnificence (which as an added bonus features Jonas Renske of Katatonia). Emotionally “Jurassic / Cretaceous” is an exhaustive journey which sees The Ocean unleash the whole album’s inner DNA. This reviewers’ words alone fail to summon the immense, intense feelings generated throughout the journey we willingly take venturing through “Jurassic / Cretaceous”. At times solemn and reflective, others a beast bigger than we could imagine, but at length The Ocean have essentially meshed their entire musical upbringing into this track. Loic’s vocal use of anger, pain and reflection is complemented beautifully by Renke’s (always) mournful style backed by the intensity of the entire band “Jurassic / Cretaceous” could be The Ocean’s finest song to date IMO! “
“Paleocene’” pulse throbs with perfect aggression from the intro and is a four minute unrelenting force with the exception of a mid-song quiet reflecting, mournful chord strumming akin to early The 3rd And The Mortal from Tears Laid In Earth. Here we reach the halfway point of the album, track four “Eocene” is the gentle lullaby that we need on the album containing zero aggression or brutal elements. Those sombre elements beautifully bonding with the heavier moments highlights The Ocean’s amazing unique ability to summon a multitude of emotions when listening to their music. Following is “Oligocene”, a drum and synth driven ambient / reflective instrumental track which is the welcome break on the album while the band grasp our welcome hands onwards through the second half of the album. Where the album was a crushing force of chaos and malevolence during the first act and intermittently for short periods towards the inevitable end, the second act of Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic is for all intents and purposes the calming / intimidation of unknowing as to the future of where humanity does or does not see itself in the scripture of our unwritten future.
(PS: The final track “Holocene” fucking rules! Imagine if you can VAST burst into the studio during The Ocean’s recording of the album because of his admiration at such awe and influence of their place in the progressive metal world that he insisted the two needed to collaborate 😉
Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic is out now on Pelagic Records / Metal Blade