Review Summary: Like doomy, droning sludge laden post-rock? You'll enjoy this.
In episode two of the television show Metalocalypse, there is a conversation between the band and their record label that goes a little like this:
"So, you want to re-re-re-re-re-rerecord the album... in the ocean?" asks the label
"No,"replies the band,"Inside the ocean. In the heaviest, most brutal part, The Mariana Trench!"
This scenario befell Ocean when it came time to record this album. After traveling out to Chicago to record with Pelican/Buried At Sea producer Sanford Parker, they scrapped the sessions, reportedly because there wasn't enough low-end for their liking. So Ocean returned to their hometown of Portland Maine, determined to make a recording heavy enough to be released. The scant liner notes show that "This album has been mastered to be played at a higher volume." And they mean it.
Candy: Vocals & Bass
Eric Brackett: Drums
JL : Guitar
Reuben J. Little: Guitar
Here Where Nothing Grows is dense.
It is also, by and large, slow.
But it is not at all a time waster.
On paper, three songs weighing in at the twenty minute mark may suggest that Here Where Nothing Grows has some overarching structure, that it is a doom-styled take on the concept album, ala Sleep's Dopesmoker. While the songs do share similar traits, this is not the case. Thought the album has an undeniable flow, you can listen to each song independently and not be “missing out.”
So What Does It Sound Like?
Well, most reviews I've read rattle off names like:
Neurosis, Sunn 0)), Burzum, Earth, Mogwai, Isis.
One reviewer said “It's nothing you haven't heard before, but its exactly what you'll like.”
At the core, it's single riff repetition with downtuned, sludge-metal guitars. With a fairly generous helping of soundscaping, for good measure.
The band considers what they play “harmonic sludge, played at a snail's pace.” I've heard the term post-rock bandied about. Many reputable sites (AMG, etc.) consider it doom metal. You can nitpick genres for a while when it comes to Ocean, so I'll just call them dreary, melancholy, and loud. Very, very loud.
First Reign begins with a waterfall of feedback, before descending into a barrage of slower-than-Sabbath riffage, kept afloat only by precision fills on behalf of the drummer. At five minutes in the molasses thick groove gets slower still, with some positively creepy noise hails the arrival of the first garbled vocals join in (the vocals are equal-to-low in the mix, think earlier Isis). A quarter of the way through the song, and there have been several time changes, from lethargic to cryogenic time suspension. At the ten-minute mark it just gets darker, creating an almost opressive vibe. Thankfully, it lightens up around fourteen minutes, but fear not, for this is but momentary respite.
Salt has an accurate title, because by now you've been down for twenty-one minutes and you're surrounded by it (salt, that is). More ethereal than before, there is still a dark, foreboding depth surrounding the glimpse of light this song offers. This is Ocean at their gentlest, which roughly translates to more vocals than the other two tracks combined and a slightly less hostile sound. It hits the Isis/Pelican-y clean-guitar-against-noise sound at two minutes, but what can only be described as a breakdown brings back the doom in full force, where it stays for the rest of the song. The vocals are indecipherable, and, according to most, sound like Count Grishnackh. Right around fourteen minutes the album hits its record in terms of speed: double-timed, the band hits speeds just above a metalcore breakdown. This is accompanied by some positively Radiohead-sounding guitar floating above the din. Suddenly the band drops back into sloth, and the song ends feeling like it missed a crescendo.
The Fall begins with speed, and almost feels like an alternate ending to Salt. At least, for the first minute. Then the band does the impossible; It gets even slower. There's barely anything happening, the drums are the only instrument allowed to even play half-notes. Consigned to whole-note feedback, the band stays quiet. It's almost as if you slowed one of the prettier Sonic Youth songs to a crawl. Five minutes later, the vocals begin to ooze over the glacier that has become the song. The Fall reverses the dynamic of the first two tracks, in this heaviness is used for barely a minute or two, basically operating as monotony breakers. There's even a guest organ courtesy of Jen Williamson. For the finale, though, Ocean picks up a military snare beat and pummels it into your skull. The guitar-work here is flashier than most post-rock or doom metal, it could even be called shredding.
Sixty-Five minutes later, this doom-laden debut is finished, and while you've probably enjoyed it, it won't leave you feeling comfortable.