Review Summary: Passion without depth.
The ocean is often used a metaphor for many different things; people use its vastness to compare it to the human soul, its immense depth to represent personal love or passion, and its mystery to the human condition. Water often symbolizes rebirth, and many cultures regard water with great reverence. Many literary phrases, pastiches, and clichés have been wrought about in regards to the ocean; “her eyes were as deep as an ocean,” “there’s plenty of fish in the sea,” “we can’t boil the ocean,” and so on. Countless artists and musicians have played with the theme of water / the ocean as well; Isis’s Oceanic
, Mastodon’s Leviathan
, Angra’s Aqua
, for example, while other bands themselves base their entire selves around these oceanic themes (Giant Squid, Leviathan, The Ocean). Oftentimes these bands try to conceptualize the ocean’s vastness through a combination of their musical soundscapes and their lyricism, attempting to build atmosphere that encompasses the ocean’s attributes. So, why continue exploring the theme of the ocean when it has already been explored so thoroughly" Are there other ways to approach using the ocean as a metaphor" Attalus try to come to terms with this question on their sophomore album, Into the Sea
It is quite apparent from the very start that this album is quite obsessed with the ocean theme. Almost all of the song titles reference some sort of oceanic term or phrase, and Attalus waste no time immersing the listener with this concept. “The Ancient Mariner” opens the album with a very dramaturgical piano number, creating a theatrical atmosphere on the level of The Dear Hunter. This song segues into the true beginning of the album, “This Ship is Going Down,” which is a heavier, fast-paced song that relates the storyteller’s faith and persona to the likeness of a sinking ship.
It is this kind of metaphorical imagery that permeates throughout Into the Sea. Attalus do not try to hide the fact that they are of Christian faith - while the initial few tracks do not exactly hint at any Christian-based lyricism, the second half of the album uses more direct proclamations of faith. The title track of the album relates the ocean to a baptism, being reborn again, while “Voices from the Shore” discusses the throes of those who implicate peer pressure and temptation upon others. “Death Be Not Proud” shows Seth Davey proclaiming that he is not afraid of death due to his faith in the afterlife, and “Coming Clean” again references rebirth and redemption on a spiritual level. It is clear that Attalus are quite passionate, but despite these impassioned performances throughout the album, Attalus are hampered a bit by the cliche nature of many of the lyrics. Oftentimes it is easy to predict exactly what the next vocal line will be, due to the reliance on rhymes and re-used concepts throughout the album.
The wonderful melodies and musicianship throughout the album mostly outweigh any negative impressions from the slightly-excessive number of faith-based lyrics and references. The title track is a beautiful piece that starts slowly, building throughout on the same melody, and continuing to expand until the end, climaxing in an explosion of drums, guitars, and soaring vocals from Seth Davey. “Sirens” is a song full of memorable vocal melodies, complete with a haunting backdrop provided by guitarists Evan King and Joseph Couillard. The vocalist utilizes spoken-word passages in “Sirens,” something he does a few times throughout the album- and while somewhat awkward sounding at first, these passages often build into screamed verses that are quite powerful. “Albatross” is another example of this, and again the harsh vocals are a welcome addition. The drumming throughout the album by Chris Sierra is also impassioned and powerful.
While Into the Sea
is not quite a groundbreaking piece of progressive/post-hardcore music, it is still excellent at what it does. Attalus show themselves as a band not afraid to speak on the things they believe in. Perhaps a bit of maturity is missed on the album- Attalus is a bit too theoretical at times, and rely on an abundance of clichéd/overused lyrics-but overall, Attalus’s sophomore album is quite an entertaining and enjoyable listen. With a bit more maturity and restraint, Attalus definitely have the talent to release something excellent, and that concept is potentially more exciting than the one explored here.