Review Summary: The Ocean is vast and high tide looks good.
The sprawling back catalog of The Ocean Collective’s can be a daunting, yet rewarding experience. Each title has its own part in the band’s integral storytelling and for better or even better, The Ocean has capitalized on gargantuan instrumentation and an appropriation of vocal talent. Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
is a tangible delving of sorts into Earth’s early beginnings; from the Cambrian and the coinciding explosion to the beginning of human history. As interesting as the themed presentation of life and all we know sprawls it’s way into being, it’s almost definitive that most listeners aren’t exactly here for the science lesson, taking instead the majesty that Phanerozoic…
offers at length and transforming it into some of the most accessible post-meets-progressive metal you’ll hear all year.
At the core of The Ocean’s swirling pool of ever changing time signatures and lush discordant soundscape there’s an eerie, yet welcoming balance to the band’s new music.The short smooth tones found within “The Cambrain Explosion” build an atmosphere of fragment and dissonance. It’s short lived, directly adding to the clearly harsher (yet completely following) approach of “Eternal Recurrence”, showcasing just how the group’s efforts to date (particularly in the form of Pelagial
) have led to this building moment. Phanerozoic…
unveils a clashing primal sophistication glossed together in a geological, time conscious manner. The true weight of The Ocean’s fluidity is felt largely in the album’s center and while listeners will naturally gravitate to the Katatonia featured, “Devonian: Nascent” it’s actually the monolithic foreboding presence of “Silurian: Age Of Sea Scorpions” that carries so much of the record. The latter feeds of its own atmospheric drive, becoming a mid paced dirge that relates Rossetti’s clean singing to the calamities of the underlying screams and noises. It’s the contrast that lifts his performance into the upper echelon, combining both of the band’s assets into what could be considered the group’s most conscious and aware release of their career (and by connection, the year). Despite the track’s almost ten minute run time, dragging moments run virtually non existent. The keys dance well around the bass-ier minimalist sections and back Rosetti’s cleaner vocals well, allowing for a bigger climax in the band’s more sludge-based soundscapes. As it turns out, Robin Staps & Co. may have just outclassed their massive Precambrian
eleven years and four full lengths later.
“Nascent” by comparison takes the atmosphere built before it and turns it sickly warm. Jonas Renkse (Katatonia fame) melds into The Ocean’s sound-pool well and despite the natural following of the Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
template, his smooth vocal caress dances across the light progressive riffing and accentuates the chorus. It’s haunting and beautiful, creating a simplistic heavy longing for the listeners. It’s here where “The Glaciation of Gondwana” truly melts, allowing for the Phanerozoic…
concept to move forward within itself. There’s a lot to take in; layer on layer joins the designed fray of The Ocean’s music (just as it has done for years). Even the minimalist bass riffing that carries one section to the next has a lot to do with the success and respite found throughout the new album. The Ocean are forever instrumentally aware and the band’s captivating musicianship is prevalent throughout the album’s forty eight minute run time. Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
is a journey of sorts, one that predates most of human caring. Even if you’re here for the history lesson, there’s a chance you’re going to miss what The Ocean have to offer on a musical level. Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
is not an album you want
to play over and over again… it’s an album you need
to play until the end of time, we’ll just need to wait for the record’s second half. If you’re looking for an easy way to define Palaeozoic
in 2018, the term ‘album of the year contender’ comes easily.