Review Summary: Brilliant post metal for the geek inside you…
The Ocean Collective have grown to become one of the most powerful, creative and tight units in the post metal sphere. Relentless touring also brought constant waves of new fans who were treated to some of the best LPs of the genre, Precambrian
. The former is Phanerozoic
’s direct precursor, while the latter’s influence lies in the melodic approach and layering present here too. Robin Staps & Co. had a difficult task to take things to the next level, but they successfully blended the strengths of previous affairs into what became another career highlight. Plus, detailing the Earth’s physical geography history (the title is the current eon in the geologic time scale) and coupling it with forays into the human’s psyche accompanies the music in the best way possible. Above this, worth mentioning is the really interesting packaging of their albums, as it details the concepts and is pretty much eye candy for hardcore fans.
Overall, Proterozoic I
is a tad harsher musically than Pelagial
, leaning more on crushingly heavy riffs ranging from blast beats to doom-oriented progressions. The guys mastered this wide range of sounds on the above mentioned LPs, so it’s only natural to hear them here carefully arranged. Nevertheless, these aggressive outbursts often fall into subdued segments as well, allowing a welcomed respite. ‘Cambrian II: Eternal Recurrence’ is a great example of The Ocean’s sound these days. The production is clearer, but just enough to not cross into over polished territory. The main riff is massive and Loic Rossetti’s vocals are on top of their game here. His visceral screams are all over Palaeozoic
, still, he includes clean croons as boldly as he did on its predecessor. Halfway, during the bridge, a sequencer stands out for a short while, before chord picking and groovy bass lines take over. You will hear electronic elements at times on the record (a nice touch actually). It's admirable how the collective constantly look to add minor details and expand horizons. Meanwhile, ‘Ordovicium: The Glaciation of Gondwana’ kicks in strong. The soaring vocals lead for the most part, yet there’s a lot going on behind them. Most importantly, the cut’s energy is infectious and mesmerizing.
The middle stretch of Palaeozoic
features two epics that put everything these guys do best on display. ‘Silurian: Age of Sea Scorpions’ is a moody journey with a less abrasive start. The bass covers a lot of the ground, whereas the guitars play fragmented riffs and melodies around it. Rossetti’s clean singing is backed by whispers and background screams during the first half. Moreover, the strings popping up here and there are beautiful. The mid-segment’s also gorgeous as we can hear piano leads and lovely singalongs. Although things build up to an intense coda, there’s an unexpected drop the moment ‘Devonian: Nascent’ begins. Even if it’s completely different, I see this song’s placement and vibe similar to ‘Let them Believe’ on Pelagial
. It mainly balances harmony with rough passages, yet the melancholic sound it boasts is touching (a brief pause from the fierceness of the others). Gradually growing during the first 5 minutes, we can hear some of the catchiest vocals, alongside eerie synths. The raging final minutes are insanely strong, especially due to the contrast they create. I believe this is the biggest highlight on the album and it will sure become a live favorite. Reaching the last couple of tunes, ‘The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse’ is a nice, cohesive ditty, acting as a softer prelude to ‘Permian: The Great Dying’. It carefully merges slightly modified guitar leads from the latter with rhythms of ‘Nascent’. Then, as expected, the closer sums up everything we’ve heard on Proterozoic I
with an emphasis on brooding parts that bursts into noisy riffs. The lyrics reference one of the major extinctions when two-thirds of the population on Earth vanished as most likely an asteroid hit the planet. However, there are a few interspersed verses that might represent a strained relationship, further punctuating that duality they always displayed in the compositions.
I was disappointed initially when I heard Proterozoic
was split into two parts, but I realize is better this way as we can properly digest these songs. You get 45 manageable minutes here, so this LP should be a gateway to (those who are unsure how to approach) The Ocean’s crowning achievement, Precambrian
. The songwriting on Palaeozoic
is just as strong and if you have the time and will to search details on the eras representing the song titles, it will only get more interesting. Staps knows how to present a full package, as this genre’s fans are some of the most devoted from what I have seen. Maybe it was a conscious decision to bridge the gap between Precambrian
now as they broadened the sonic spectrum (or the 10th anniversary of the former). If not, it was the best timing possible. The harshness of the predecessor is slowly stripped here to accommodate these less wild geological eras. I am really curious to hear what the second part will bring and this is one serious contender for album of the year.