Review Summary: “When I hold you, I need you, I said forever, and I mean forever”The Banished Heart
is a contextual effort of musical beauty describing the figurative notion of being emotionally torn in two. Oceans Of Slumber move on from the misgivings of their previous records and pull off a heartfelt approach to their brand of progressive death/doom. Hailing from Texas (Houston), Oceans Of Slumber tell a tale through vivid songwriting, combining personal experience with a brand of music that doesn’t attain instant classification. At any given time Oceans Of Slumber’s music achieves soundscapes from melodic doom, death metal, and even progressive rock. This Texan based six piece crash through the boundaries of “normal” genre classification in order to create an album that leaks quality, but also defines the term “slow grower”.
Admittedly, it took more than the usual cursory listen to completely appreciate the different elements coming together. A little backstory into the band’s members lives allowed for a bridge to develop between the band and the listener, especially considering the lyrical content behind the group’s 2018 piece, The Banished Heart
. Lyrically, the album tells a two part story between the band’s more prominent songwriters. Of course the usual suspects run the course of the album’s sixty five minute runtime, filling each verse with differing levels of angst, depression, frustration and sadness, but there’s also the occasional mention of love and joy - before coming full circle into a world of hope. It’s a definitive journey of sorts for Oceans Of Slumber, but it’s far from a chore when each component manages to relate with the listener. For the most part, the listeners’ enjoyment will depend largely on exactly how well The Banished Heart
does relate context through music. The album’s core centres around the band’s founding member (and producer) Dobber Beverly who explains a brief explanation of the record:
“We landed in Houston in November. I was in the middle of a brutal and messy break up with my spouse of eighteen years, with whom I have a child (my pride and joy). Cammie Gilbert (lead vocals) had recently lost her father about seven years ago and we both found a place of refuge with each other. We’ve had the same experiences, and the same outlook. We needed a new record and this album became a profound statement of our lives over the last few years. It was Cammie reaching out to me, her finding me and me toiling in absolute darkness searching for her.”
With this in mind it’s easier to understand that Oceans Of Slumber’s newest offering is darker than the band’s previous albums. Instrumentally, the music is tighter, less “busy” but clearly more elaborate building on the emotional blocks mentioned above. It’s allowed for a heavier, more expansive showcase, complimenting the album’s darker lyrical themes. At the record’s core lies a bedrock of melancholy, bringing the stylistic soundscapes prominent of the 90s era death/doom genre. The band don’t reinvent the genre, rather they just bring it into 2018.
The Banished Heart
becomes personal to some listeners where others would find it to drag. In parts, Oceans Of Slumber’s 2018 release is not perfect. But it’s the album’s level of musical rawness that helps relate the music through the speakers into the listeners’ subconscious. It’s important that each element is allowed the time to shine both by itself and together, aided by Dobber’s slightly compressed production values. The album shines in its “less is more” approach.
The Banished Heart
is a diverse listen, simply because it melds a few different styles together. It allows the music to rely on this diversity, instead of throwing ideas together for the sake of it. The album’s opening track, “The Decay Of Disregard” sets the tone immediately. The atmosphere found in the song’s opening sections identify a sombre mood, reaching for that melancholy with unrivalled immediacy. The lyrical topics swirl between a need to find a place for blame, and the frustration of being stuck in an unwanted situation, while lightly crescendos into the rest of the record. Interestingly, is the use of a-typical death metal sections that underlie the track’s second half, showcasing the band’s ability to bring two (or more) worlds together. There’s an interesting amount of compositional growth shown here in direct comparison to the band’s last two records. It’s not an attempt at innovation, rather it’s a window looking directly into Oceans Of Slumber’s emotional thought process. The Banished Heart
is both unsettling and completely captivating. It’s the combination of these that helps define the band’s latest record as a beautiful modern doom album. Understandably, highlights run the course of the record, making it difficult to pick one or two standouts. The album lives off it’s emotional spine, allowing for sweeping statements and occasional hyperbole.
Overall, it’s fair to say that Oceans Of Slumber’s The Banished Heart
won’t engage everyone. At a glance the band’s “heart on their sleeves” approach to their new music may go completely over the head of any listener they do not directly engage with. Even the album’s title track is a lot to digest in one or two listens. Taking cue from the contextual themes that slightly overbear by the record’s last track, the title track showcases Cammie Gilbert at her vocal best. Her ease behind a microphone is matched only by her investment in her lyrical art, culminating in one of the year’s strongest vocal efforts recorded on a full length. Chances are that if you can’t find yourself being invested in the band’s lyrical storyline there’s less chance that you’ll find yourself spinning this hour (plus) record over and over again. If however, you’re lucky enough to find The Banished Heart
at all relatable, you’ll appreciate yet another standout record of 2018.