The Ocean
Pelagial


3.5
great

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
April 28th, 2013 | 278 replies | 53,465 views


Release Date: 04/26/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Though its depths vary, The Ocean is largely consistent from one end to another.

In the increasingly niche musical filing of progressive metal, The Ocean has managed to establish themselves as a group that excels at balancing the heavier elements of sludge, groove, attack, and post-metal with lighter, more progressive aspects of leads, keys, and strings. Not only have they managed to properly proportion the yin and yang of progressive metal throughout their catalog, but they've also proved their ability to match and evolve a certain tone to a process or period of time, particularly on 2007's Precambrian. While the collective (now more of a traditional band than they had been prior to the release of 2010's Heliocentric) were somewhat criticized for inconsistency and the philosophical posturing on Heliocentric and (to a lesser extent) on follow-up Anthropocentric, the root of their sound remained largely unchanged throughout. Really, six years after Precambrian, The Ocean continue to remain one of the more consistent groups in progressive metal with their most recent release, Pelagial, doing little to detract from that title.

If the fluid, large sound of Pelagial seems like a return to form after two scrutinized albums, the reasons should be rather apparent. At the basest level, Pelagial is simply tighter, better organized, and a little more interesting than its last two predecessors. But even this can be attributed to differences in subject matter. While Heliocentric and Anthropocentric were both accused of pretentiousness that bloated things to the point of bust, pretense has always been at least somewhat applicable to The Ocean's subject matter.

The primary difference is that albums like Heliocentric and Anthropocentric attempted to steer the musical engine towards describing more abstract evolutions of human thought while earlier albums, like the heralded Precambrian, played closer to describing natural processes that have a formed, logical flow to them that's similarly reflected in the music. Pelagial, in its concept of delving into the ocean's depths, plays to the strengths of the latter and projects the image of a spike in performance when the real issue on the past two albums seems to have stemmed more from a weaker pairing of songwriting and concept than anything else.

And just as The Ocean managed to turn the evolution of a landscape and its population over eras into a musical mural, the group does the same with the descent from the surface to the trenches of the ocean. Beginning with tracks that lean more towards a light, piano-heavy sound indicative of the waters' lightest and most welcoming levels, Pelagial turns darker at the "Bathyalpelagic" level of the album - by no coincidence the same level in the ocean where things become pitch black. From that point on, while melodic leads, the occasional keys, and strings sound out from time to time in a recreation of the wonder an explorer might feel tingle in his veins at such a depth, the primary force becomes the deep, heavy groove belying the tides and thickening along with the increasing pressure surrounding whatever tin can an explorer might descend in.

Pelagial seems to accomplish exactly what The Ocean set out to achieve in properly balancing progressive and metal aspects to create a sonic representation of the world's big, blue depths, but it's not an album without fault. While vocalist Loic Rossetti's lows and growls do a great job of adding punch and character to the waters that could be seen as emblematic of its inhabitants, early missteps in his forced and accented mid-range cleans can be cringe-worthy. As the plunge progresses, most this problem works itself away by phasing out his higher range, but even then, knowledge that the album was originally intended to be an instrumental piece can make certain vocal passages feel forced and unnecessary.

That, and while the group's consistency largely plays to their benefit, the album's vastness can become somewhat boring. Without much of a large shift in tone or dynamic as the depth increases, things start to blend together. That shouldn't be surprising, mind - this is an album about exploring the ocean's depths. While there's certainly some interesting things to be found on the voyage, once you get past a certain level, it's just dark and wet. As musically interesting and artistically representative as Pelagial is, it's not an album with massive replay value and that's not shocking.

It's okay, even. Pelagial is strong enough as a progressive metal release and as an artistic representation that it gets its point across with proper force, elegance, and assertiveness without forcing you to analyze it up and down for months. With so few contemporary acts balancing progressive and metal elements in the way that The Ocean do, I think it can be easy to overestimate the lasting impact of an album like Pelagial due to a lack of competition. Like a B-talent in a talent-light NFL draft, it can be easy for us to over-appraise Pelagial as a return to greatness for the band when, in fact, they've really never strayed from the course they set out on. If anything, Pelagial simply proves that when The Ocean focus on structured topics they can easily make great albums without really pushing the envelope one way or another. Whether or not they'll put the extra oomph into the next one and try to recapture the success they found on Precambrian: Proterozoic remains to be seen.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2013



1981 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, I was over half way through things blew out on me. Hopefully this is still pretty good.

Album's a great one, but nothing new for this group.

Digging: Rx Bandits - Gemini, Her Majesty

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2013



3335 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Strong review man. The music is so good on this, but I feel sometimes the vocals get in the way. I'm thinking of buying this. The Ocean come tomorrow in my city with Cult Of Luna, but I have a show with my own band so I can't attend, dammit.

Digging: Karma To Burn - Arch Stanton

LunaticSoul
April 28th 2013



154 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

it's not an album with massive replay value and that's not shocking.

---

It's not? I don't think it's a "in your face" type of record, there is a lot of stuff hidden into the surface (catch the pun). I think I'll like the instrumental version more than the one with vocals, and I'd love to see the 51 minutes video that is supposed to be played along the disc.

As them being "pretentious", I have had a chat with Staps at their gig last week, and he is a dude who believes a lot in what he does and, what's more, loves to deliver added value to their fans: If I had more money I'd have loved to buy that limited edition with the 1kg box!

SarcasticBastard
April 28th 2013



164 Comments


Loïc's my boy. Get at me haters.

LunaticSoul
April 28th 2013



154 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

He is a good vocalist. What he does on disc it's what you get live.. Then it depends whether you like his voice or not (I like it).

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2013



3335 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

He's good, but there are some segments on the record where the music should be in front.

SarcasticBastard
April 28th 2013



164 Comments


Allow me to reiterate: Loïc > 95% of the vocalists Sputnik users circle jerk over.

SarcasticBastard
April 28th 2013



164 Comments


I'm not saying he's Christian Älvestam or Maynard, but still, he does not deserve the shit you all give him. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

conesmoke
April 28th 2013



5176 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

just listened to this front to back. Enjoyed it and the vocals sound good, but i do agree that there are a couple of moments where the music (and not the vocals) should be in front.

Wizard
April 28th 2013



19215 Comments


Damn accurate review, reflects my thoughts perfectly. I don't usually see you reviewing metal though.

Digging: Monarch - Sabbracadaver

redshift912
April 28th 2013



31 Comments


"I'm not saying he's Christian Älvestam or Maynard, but still, he does not deserve the shit you all give him. Not by any stretch of the imagination."

Maynard?Bwahahaha.


SarcasticBastard
April 28th 2013



164 Comments


You don't think Maynard is a good vocalist? Opinions are subjective, but...

Drummerboy123
April 28th 2013



2312 Comments


Just listened to a snippet of this. Sounds quite good. Gonna download and see what the fuss is about.

Vocals seemed sweet to me. A bit like MJK at times IMO.

Digging: Sleepmakeswaves - Love of Cartography

MasBarHigeuoris21
April 28th 2013



1530 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

I've only listened to this little bit but I really didn't like what I heard. Thanks for the review. If not for it I might never have taken the time to go back and listen to it all the way.

MichaelSnoxall
April 28th 2013



12163 Comments


I might check this out, but The Ocean kinda bored me these days. I used to be a massive fan but now it's just ehhhh. Good review.

KILL
April 28th 2013



70589 Comments


yea rly boring band

Digging: Gal Costa - Gal Costa

MikeC26
April 28th 2013



3142 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i dig um but they're pretty predictable. fun music regardless

scissorlocked
April 28th 2013



3508 Comments


yeap, nothing special from this band anymore

there are some good songs though

Digging: John Roberts - Ausio

MosesMalone
April 28th 2013



1831 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Wait.
So I'm supposed to like this and dislike Helio/Anthropocentric? Maybe I'm in the minority here but I found those to be decently consistent enough albums that fit in Ocean canon. I dunno, maybe I expected too much out of pelagial, but I'm pretty disappointed with it thus far.

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2013



1981 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nope, nothing to rag on Helio/Anthro - I like those albums just fine. This is a little better and more consistent is all. I think most of the "pretentious" label that this band gets comes from their subject matter - especially the self-proclaimed "critique of Christianity" that was the last two albums.

I sure don't see a lot of replay here - it's a good album and it's one that you'll spin from time to time, but it's not something that I can even conjure up off-hand to think that "Oh, damn I REALLY need to put on Pelagial." It might just be that it doesn't have the hooks for that. But it's still great at accomplishing the sound it's going for.

@Wizard - I just haven't been that into metal lately, I guess. Plus it's become arduous to find new stuff that I like, given that I don't like doom or black metal and am pretty particular about the rest. Maybe that just gives me the illusion that there's not a lot of good stuff out there when it's really an issue of taste.



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