Review Summary: An overall interesting experiment that sorely lacks in consistency and creative focus.
Let's get this out of the way right now: Heliocentric
is not generally a logical follow-up to its predecessors. This is more-so an extension of the Proterozoic side of 2007's Precambrian
and a completely different iteration of The Ocean you've all found yourselves masturbating to at one time or another. Even then, claiming it an 'extension' is a reach, as LoÃ¯c Rossetti finds himself the center of attention with an extremely melodic and expressive clean-vocal performance. Gone is the pervading sludge-y heaviness of past releases, in favor of further exploration of the post-somethingness of Proterozoic. Atmosphere, melody, through-composed "orchestrations", and other progressive methodologies coalesce into a loose interpretation of progressive metal... more akin to the post-hardcore of Thrice than the raging epic metal of prior endeavors.
But while this change in direction is disappointing for those expecting songwriter Robin Staps to bridge the gap between the two sides of Precambrian
, overall, Heliocentric
succeeds musically. The wave-like crescendo of "Shamiyam" decompresses effectively into the introductory proggy-polyrhythmic breakdown of "Firmament". Rosetti's vocals are impressive from the beginning but really shine at around the 5-minute mark, bringing Vheissu
comparisons full circle. Picking up half-way through, the record really comes together to its full potential - dissonant heaviness contrasting reverb-soaked spacey melody, creatively infused metalcore with more traditional clean/shouted vocals, and heavy borrowing from the near symphonic at times. For a microcosm, "Swallowed by the Earth" hearkens back to The Ocean's past (there's a sludge song title if I've ever seen one) while emphasizing a post-metal future. The true highlight here is easily the Origins duology making up the record's tail end. This is easily some of the most inspired songwriting Staps has ever done, opening with the soul-crushing "Origin of Species" and closing with the beautifully orchestrated saxaphone-led outro of "Origin of God". All of the vocals (screamed, sung, or both at the same time) are tasteful, melodic, and perfectly complimentary to the composition.
If we stop here, this could definitely be material for many a best-of 2010 list. But it's not all divine song in The Ocean. Heliocentric
is extremely polar in its consistency, ranging from the derivative and uninspiring ("The First Commandment") to the downright awful. "Ptolemy Was Wrong" could quite possibly be one of the absolute worst songs ever written. A poorly paced power ballad only gets worse when the lyrics are laughable at best. While heliocentricism is a somewhat interesting historical motif, it's fairly difficult to be first-person emotive about a topic that hasn't been edgy since the 1400s. Stupid concepts like this really bring down progressive records, and Heliocentric
is no exception. Especially with easily understandable clean-vocals from Rossetti, the lyrical content is truly exposed this time around.
is an overall interesting experiment from The Ocean, but sorely lacks in consistency and creative focus. Hopefully next time around fans can get what they were looking for from Precambrian