Review Summary: He’s not joking.effloresce
To burst forth into or as if into flower; bloom
Oceansize’s first full-length release is very unusual in the sense that it is both one of the most aptly-titled albums that I’ve ever encountered and one of the strongest debuts ever to grace my ears. How they managed to do this is beyond me, but they somehow managed to tie a myriad of genres together into a diverse group of songs that shift keys and time signatures so fluidly that most other bands that attempt this (Dream Theater springs to mind) feel stilted and awkward in comparison, whilst maintaining a constant impression of maturity and confidence. From start to finish they maintain the highest standards of quality and keep the listener engaged with each and every crazy idea that they present.
The first three songs speak volumes for the rest of the album; I Am the Morning
is a dreamy instrumental with traces of post-rock that gently eases the listener in, Catalyst
– one of the band’s best known songs and an album highlight – opens up with a violent swirl of feedback and a strange call-and-return chug-off before bursting into a series of loud, powerful riffs, beautiful melodies and proggy grooves that thrive on contrasting dynamics, whilst introducing Mike Vennart’s vocals, which are both explosive and soothing here, and One Day All This Could Be Yours
relies on a minimalistic, sinister vibe that is driven by keyboards and Vennart’s hauntingly mysterious vocals, before climaxing with a heavy riff. These songs might seem to have little in common, but they have a very strong sense of cohesion, the secret to which lies in the album title. Every song on Effloresce (with the exception of ambient intervals Rinsed
) has at least one moment when it ‘bursts into flower’; the music can consistently be described as swirling, and there will always be a moment when the swirl of sound does something absolutely fantastic. This happens in many different ways; the arrival of the first heavy chorus in You Wish
, the bizarre guitar solo in Massive Bereavement
, the emotionally-charged bridge of Remember Where You Are
and – the best moment of the album in my opinion – the masterfully crafted, wah-infused bridge in Amputee
are just a few examples of the album blooming.
Although the whole album is brilliant, there are a few songs that deserve special mention; You Wish
is the album’s ugliest, heaviest moment that deploys chunky riffs and furious vocals to great effect, Catalyst
achieves excellence through being part rocking, part relaxing and part grooving, Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs
is a stunningly beautiful song that makes astoundingly powerful use of very simple melodies, Amputee
is a driving rock song (possibly the simplest song on the album, which doesn't say much) that has a soaring chorus and a bridge that remains one of the most amazing things I’ve ever heard, and Massive Bereavement
succeeds through being, put mildly, weird as hell; it maintains a strange vibe that is both chilled, trippy and slightly menacing, erupting into riffs chunky enough to bring Rage Against the Machine to mind. Vennart’s vocals are as eccentric as the rest of it, the belted-out line “He’s not joking, joking, joking” being one of the album’s most memorable moments. These songs are all incredible, but there aren’t any genuinely weak moments on the album, only songs that aren't as great as the best ones (Remember Where You Are
and Saturday Morning Breakfast Show
don’t stand out quite as much but are still worth a listen). It’s also interesting that the final three songs, which are the most similar stylistically, are the only part of the album that threatens to drag (it doesn't quite, since they are all great songs, but the lack of difference between them is very obvious); this proves how much the album relies on diversity.
After so much praise, you must be wondering what keeps Effloresce back from a perfect 5/5; it has songs that are easily strong enough to merit that and enough diversity to keep anyone interested throughout. Well, the problem is that it is be quite simply overwhelming; at around seventy minutes, Effloresce is a long album, and it contains so many ideas that it is impossible to appreciate it in one listen, especially due to the subtlety of some songs. Although it is cohesive, its vast presence can easily overpower the listener and – although I feel slightly bad about slamming the audaciousness of any music – this is too notable to not count as a slight flaw. Otherwise, there’s nothing significant that I can say against it; Effloresce is an album that thrives on great variety, fascinating ideas – looking at the tabs or sheet music for an Oceansize song is guaranteed to make you think – and pretty damn solid songwriting. Recommended to anyone who’s prepared to seriously listen to it.
3. Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs
4. You Wish
5. Massive Bereavement