Review Summary: May this ark be our saviour.
In the bible it is written, that god commanded Noah to build a big boat, called ark, so he can survive the devestating flood with his family and all animals from earth they took into it, two of each kind.
We Are The Ocean has always been a band of change. Starting out as a pure post-hardcore act on their debut, where screamer Dan Brown claimed a majority of vocal delivery, the british group started altering their sound greatly on sophomore release 'Go Now And Live'. While the dual voices worked astoundingly well on some occassions ('The Waiting Room', 'Runaway'), especially his normal singing felt rather unfitting most of the time and an eventual departure was inevitable, considering the musical style this band is striving for. That said, people who are hoping for a return to roots might be disappointed with their 4th LP, titled 'Ark', since Liam Cromby (vocals, rhythm guitar), Alfie Scully (lead guitar), Jack Spence (bass) and Tom Whittaker (drums) continue their evolution right where they left off on last release 'Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow'. Despite of this, I demand everyone to give this record a fair chance, since it's the band's best work to date.
Kicking off with leadsingle 'Ark', a skyfallesque monstrum of music sets listeners into the right mood for everything to come and contains several aspects you'll find seperately in following songs, such as female background singers. The first impression of this record might cause some people to critisize a lack of cohesiveness, since all tracks differ quite a lot in style from one another. However, after time one may grasp the concept that could lay behind it. This album doesn't seem to be named after an ark for no reason! Spot two belongs to the dance-inducing 'I Wanna Be', conveying a classic rock feeling due to its production and sing-along chorus. With 'Good For You', you'll get a creation that is surprisingly similiar in execution to its predecessor, also making use of falsetto background voices during chorus, without lacking an own identity though. Track 4 & 5 are titled 'Do It Together' and 'Shere Khan', which head into a harder direction with the former being characterized by its punching up-beat riff, while the latter stays dark and moody. Once again some kind of couple, it seems. Well, when you hear what songs come next, it could finally become apparent what concept I'm talking about. Both, 'Hope You're Well' as well as 'Letter To Michael' represent emotional ballads, but are delivered in completely different ways. One relies on disorted guitar tunes, while the other leaves it to simple acoustic string-picking. By the time you reach this point of 'Ark', it's possible to notice how each song duo seems to show two styles of execution for a similar song type. When that idea came up to me, the last track had yet to be played. I was wondering whether my theory would gain further affirmation, since the opening song still had to get his counterpart - and now tell me that 'Remember To Remember Them' doesn't remind you of 'Ark' right from the get-go! An ark, with two of each kind.
Just as on former records, Liam Cromby is at the top of his game with his vocals. Furthermore, he shows a surprising talent for shouts, which return in several songs. Just listen to 'Do It Together' and you might stop mourning about the loss of Brown. A great improvement comes with this albums production. It varys from time to time, depending on which effect a song wants to convey. While on creations like 'I Wanna Be' you'll somehow get the feeling of listening to a raw live performance inside a dirty rock'n'roll bar, with guitars set to the forefront and Cromby shouting alongside them, it's completely reversed on pieces such as 'Letter To Michael', highlighting Liams voice and using simple acoustic tunes to support his performance from behind. Also, in a time where way too many bands rely on so called double-tracking to make their vocalist sound stronger, We Are The Ocean's frontman has no need for such toys. It appears here and there nonetheless, but rather as a stylistic choice to improve the song itself, not his singing skills, which can be hardly topped anyway. Another positive change I already partly adressed is the fact, that Cromby doesn't carry all songs on his own any more, as it happened on 'Go Now And Live', where the guitars were banished into oblivion by his voice, never standind out at all.
This time around, all instruments play an important role and work hand in hand to create a fluid sound, without, most importantly, losing their distinction. 'Do It Together', for instance, would be doomed without its constantly audible bassline, being essential for the songs flow. There are also some standout sections where drumming takes the spotlight, e.g. 'Remember To Remember Them'. Fortunately, features as female choirs or violines weren't overused at all and are placed right where they belong to improve a song in special ways. Regarding lyrics you'll get everything from catchy lines to sing along with like "I wanna be, I wanna be your lover!" to metaphoric phrases which keep you guessing what their meaning could be, as seen in the lyric video for leadsingle 'Ark'. More important is the fact, that everything is presented in a honest and authentic manner, so one can get emotionally involved in different ways, whether it's lovely or aggressive.
If anything, the only negative aspect being mentioned might be an absence of innovation. Everything has been done before. It's the main reason why I could see people a bit older in particular (like in their mid 30's), rate this album lower, since they have a longer history with such kind of music and with each song you listen to, it becomes harder to get surprised by the next one. Maybe I'm also taking it too far with my interpretation of the possibly inexistent concept behind 'Ark'. But that doesn't matter, as long as the record achieves to make me get involved, think about it and remember its content. This fun, this is catchy, this is modern, this is classy, this is rough, this is honest - this is an ark, containing everything rock as a genre has to offer, sailing across the wide ocean of music.