Review Summary: "BIG CALL" ALERT: Is Liam Cromby now the world's best rock vocalist?
It had to happen... Recent precedent suggested that it was just a matter of time. More than that; precedent which hit close to home - both literally and figuratively. It is fair to state that it has not been a great period for dual vocalist post-hardcore bands looking to diversify their sound towards alt-rock territory. Canadian veterans Alexisonfire imploded, before English upstarts Deaf Havana dropped the screaming half of their vocal equation. The former were often compared to promising Essex outfit We Are The Ocean, while the latter were neighboring tour-mates. And while the band's solid second LP 'Go Now and Live' made do with screamer Dan Brown toning down his vocals to a gruff rasp, a decision clearly had to be made one way or another. The resultant facts are that (a) We Are The Ocean are now a quartet; (b) Brown is their (non-performing) tour manager; and (c) third LP 'Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow' is the band's best release to date!
From the outside looking in, it would not have surprised many had Brown remained a member of We Are The Ocean, while rhythm guitarist and clean vocalist Liam Cromby took a shot at a solo career. To put it bluntly, the comparisons between Cromby and ex-Alexisonfire - now City and Colour - troubadour Dallas Green are simply too obvious to ignore. Apart from the striking - if arguably a little jarring - bookend ballads of 'Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow', however, Cromby is not only content in taking over the lead vocals of a "rock" band, but up for the challenge to take We Are The Ocean to the next level and beyond.
While the forays into acoustic folk and the now quartet's post-hardcore roots are brief, it is only 75 seconds into 'Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow' when we learn that We Are The Ocean most definitely remain a rock band. Containing razor-sharp riffage, propulsive drumming and semi-aggressive chants, lead single 'Bleed' is a winning shout-along anthem that remains on the correct side of its nu-metal influences. Later, huge-sounding highlight 'Machine' would make 'Wasting Light' era Foo Fighters proud, taking it up a further notch with Tom Whittaker's pounding drums proving to be an impressive standout. While falling short of being inventive, Alfie Scully's guitar lines are strong and effective, if a little too often sacrificed in the mix to spotlight vocal hooks. 'Machine' is also proof positive that Dan Brown's screaming is not missed as much as expected, being one of a number of tracks which employ either - or in this case both - gang chants or individual backing vocals.
Of course, while all of this is well and good, We Are The Ocean would ultimately be defined as nothing more than "solid", were it not for the superlative vocals of Liam Cromby. The bass-driven 'Golden Gate' is almost entirely reliant on his swoon-worthy voice... And all the better for it. 'Young Heart' proves to be the perfect vehicle for Cromby though, with its parental relationship theme not only bringing out the sincerity and emotion in his voice, but also his ability to smoothly transition through ranges while always maintaining a warm tone. Elsewhere, Cromby further proves his mastering of dynamics on the jaunty 'Story of a Modern Child' and the especially playful 'Pass Me By'; the latter of which recalls the poppier moments of Lostprophets without going overboard, making for a fun and infectious sing-along which is extremely difficult to dislike.
If there is a track that does expose a chink in We Are The Ocean's armor, it could well be second single 'The Road', with the band yet to sync in with the tunes slightly darker mood. Apart from that though, it is only the lack of startling innovation which is holding this quartet back from hurtling to the top of the rock pack. When one considers that the cohesive 35 minutes of 'Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow' can fairly be classified as a transitional release - albeit a second in succession - it is the fact that there is still so much room for improvement which encouragingly makes We Are The Ocean such an extremely exciting prospect. Of course, it does help when you do have in your possession arguably the world's best rock vocalist at present... And as the aforementioned chink suggests, even he is capable of better!
Recommended Tracks: Machine, Young Heart, Golden Gate & Pass Me By.