The Ocean
Pelagial


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Newton USER (42 Reviews)
April 25th, 2013 | 89 replies | 8,651 views


Release Date: 04/26/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Ocean ditch the philosophical posturing and return to what they’re best at – creating massive soundscapes in a great conceptual framework.

21 of 21 thought this review was well written

In the wake of The Ocean’s polarizing duo Heliocentric and Anthropocentric, their next album was bound to be a make-or-break affair. Pelagial arrives on the heels of two and half years of hand-wringing, lukewarm positivity, and general bewilderment over its immediate predecessors. After 2007’s Precambrian capitalized on The Ocean’s ability to meld atmospheric and brutal songwriting to critical acclaim, bandleader Robin Staps decided to break up the Collective in favor of a stable lineup. It turned out some growing pains were in order: 2010’s Heliocentric showcased new singer Loic Rossetti’s dynamic voice, but often subjected its audience to cringe-worthy lyrical concepts and awkward ballads that hung their inconsistent singer out to dry. Later that year, Anthropocentric got the band back on their feet with a heavier overall sound and far less filler, but did little to dissuade the trepidation of longtime fans. With Pelagial, those fears about the Ocean’s future can finally be laid to rest.

Based around the very cool concept of descending through the ocean, Pelagial feels more natural than anything else by the new lineup. Staps’ original idea was to start with a clean, ambient “surface” feel and move steadily towards a “distorted and abrasive sound for the doomy depth-passages at the end of the album”. Indeed, the serene major-chord piano of “Epipelagic” sets a tone unlike anything in The Ocean’s catalogue, despite seascape sounds that otherwise whisper of Fluxion’s opener, “Nazca”. The early song arrangements are much more open than Anthropocentric’s, as heavily-panned strings and splashing cymbals give a backdrop to Luc Hess’ clean rim-tapping and fleet double-bass work. The first proper song, “Mesopelagic: The Uncanny,” writhes and shimmers with Cloudkicker-esque rhythmic precision, creating some of the band’s most intriguing instrumental work since Precambrian, while Rossetti's chorus of "Fears we need to face / to break out of these cycles!" borders on anthemic. Speaking of Precambrian, fans of that album will notice the similar naming formula here: each song is titled according to an ocean layer, followed by an epithet addressing the lyrics. Further Precambrian comparisons surface as Pelagial passes through the Hadean-rooted “Hadopelagic”, gaining visceral momentum even as it grinds to an abyssal crawl.

It would be somewhat misleading to call Pelagial a smooth journey downward. Fifteen minutes in, “Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibrated” hits like a tidal wave of blast beats and harsh vocals, and wouldn’t sound out of place on Aeolian. On the other hand, “Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe”, appearing near the end of the album, spans a huge dynamic spectrum over its nine minutes. Wavering between gentle, jazzy instrumental work and layered choruses, the song is based on syncopated 6/8 time (often accented by Hess as 2/4) interspersed with Rossetti’s gritty singing, before changing key and bursting into a climax of harsh vocals and heavy tom rolls. The slow-burning guitar chords of “Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance” are straight out of Precambrian’s “Mount Sorrow”, backed by gurgling organ and throaty bass lines, something sorely lacking on the last two albums. The expedition wraps up as promised, pounding the listener with doom-metal riffing as “Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes” impersonates an enormous beast taking its last steps. It’s certainly the most suffocating sound The Ocean have yet conjured up, and feels at least seven bleak miles of ocean away from “Epipelagic”.

Of course, the most contentious part of The Ocean’s makeover has been their new singer. Pelagial features Rossetti’s strongest vocal performances yet, as he easily intertwines singing with mid-range screams to give songs added punch and, ahem, depth. Perhaps hardcore Meta fans who wrote The Ocean off upon hearing “Ptolemy Was Wrong” will give Rossetti his due after a strong showing here; he may not have the most earth-shaking screams, but there’s something to be said for his particularly intelligible harsh delivery. With that being said, Pelagial was conceived as an instrumental album, and has moments where the vocals sound added on. The rhythms are often so dense that there just isn’t room in the mix for them. Somewhere in the songwriting process, however, the band had change of heart; in an otherwise pro-instrumental interview, Staps opined that, “Vocalists are easier to idolize than drummers, and as absurd as this may seem with growls, they do conjure the individuals in the crowd in an emotional way and establish a deeper connection with them.” So there’s a case to be made both ways, and If you do prefer the instrumental version, Pelagial’s unpredictable and dynamic songwriting allows it to more than stand on its own.

Pelagial is intended to be a journey experienced in a complete listen, and as far as concept albums go, The Ocean have largely hit the nail on the head. Fans who are new to the band will find the album’s creative breadth intriguing, while long-time followers should be satisfied by the return of Staps’ ace songwriting chops and Rossetti’s continued improvement as the band’s vocalist. After six years of reassuring ourselves that Staps is still the guy who wrote Fluxion and Precambrian, The Ocean’s overhaul is finally paying dividends. Pelagial has the reconfigured band firing on all cylinders for the first time, and if it’s any indicator of future releases, then The Ocean still have a lot to say about the future of progressive metal.



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Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF (3.5)
Though its depths vary, The Ocean is largely consistent from one end to another....


Comments:Add a Comment 
pedro70512
April 25th 2013



1858 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

These guys did a damned good job of keeping this from leaking until yesterday. Thoughts and feedback appreciated.

MaxKaska
April 25th 2013



32 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Since it's being released tomorrow I think I might just wait for my download code from the preorder.
I already have the Instrumental so heard the album weeks ago.

So gooodd.


pedro70512
April 25th 2013



1858 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I wanted the vinyl so badly but $140 is just too much, so I'm waiting on my preorder also. I don't
like to torrent albums unless I've bought them in some capacity.

Eclecticist
April 25th 2013



3863 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I haven't listened to the album yet but I just got it off of ItLeaked and I will spin it tonight. I'm
very doubtful that it's a 4.5.

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2013



3008 Comments


Nice review, man. Check your shoutbox

Digging: Todd Terje - It's Album Time

Motiv3
April 25th 2013



8420 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

So the vocal version leaked?

CrimsonLies
April 25th 2013



1674 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review, pos.

Not a fan of the vox though, I much preferred their older style. It's shaping up to be a 4 so far

Digging: Echoes (UK) - The Pursuit

Tyrael
April 25th 2013



20394 Comments


instrumental version is far superior

Digging: Lantlos - Melting Sun

CrimsonLies
April 25th 2013



1674 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Agreed

Motiv3
April 25th 2013



8420 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

reading this made me want to give Precambrian a spin (i thought i rated it too after i deleted my initial rating of it...apparently not). I'll try and find this later.

pedro70512
April 25th 2013



1858 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

yes the vocal version is finally out, though preorders come in tomorrow.

I feel like the response to this is similar to Periphery's first album, even though the vocals here are far better than that one. either way, the band played it right with the two versions.

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
April 25th 2013



19518 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

oh shit can't wait to listen to this. the instrumentals were tight

Digging: Cult Leader - Nothing for Us Here

Treeman
April 25th 2013



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Treeman approved

ChuckyTruant
April 25th 2013



15572 Comments


Good review, needs some fixing here and there though.

Digging: Architects - Lost Forever // Lost Together

pedro70512
April 25th 2013



1858 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"needs some fixing here and there though."

any specific suggestions?

CaptainDooRight
April 25th 2013



26435 Comments


read some of your review earlier, def solid, pos'd

I'm hearing that the instrumental version is better so I might check both who knows but cool to see this is well rec'd

Digging: Deniro Farrar - The Patriarch II

bodiesinflight57
April 25th 2013



866 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Vocals feel like a massive afterthought on the non-instrumental version, which is unsurprising because they were. Not sure what they were thinking when they included them tbh.

ChuckyTruant
April 25th 2013



15572 Comments


any specific suggestions?

With that being said, Pelagial was conceived as an instrumental album, and has moments where the vocals sound added-on -- the rhythms are often so dense that there just isn’t room in the mix for them.

get rid the hyphen between added and on. also I would use a semi colon where you have "--"

Recommended: Mesopelagic: The Uncanny, Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe, Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance

Just get rid of this. you don't need a recommended songs section if you point them out well enough during the actual review, which you did, so its just redundant.


pedro70512
April 25th 2013



1858 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

good points. thanks.

Shuyin
April 25th 2013



10414 Comments


been waiting for ages..

Digging: All the Empires of the World - Sunscraper



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