Review Summary: Short but ultimately very sweet, an overlooked yet greatly rewarding hidden gem of the post metal genre.
The emergence of bands that can be tagged under the post metal genre has undoubtedly been burgeoning since the turn of the new millennium. Pioneering acts such as ISIS, Neurosis and Pelican helped to establish a genre which, rather than relying solely on sheer colossal heaviness or virtuous instrumentation, focuses more on density, layering of sounds and atmosphere. One such hidden gem of the genre that pretty much went unnoticed was this album by UK outfit Swallow the Ocean. Their sound is comparable to the likes of Cult of Luna and the aforementioned bands but rather than be a simple copycat artist, Swallow the Ocean demonstrated an interesting, albeit not unique, take on the typical post metal sound.
After an obligatory twenty second opener, the album opens with an early highlight in the form of Amphibian. Crushing guitars envelope the listener and when combined with the truly ferocious vocals, it is hard to ignore just how well the band do the whole post metal thing. Dancing Upon a Sinking Vessel further emphasises their ability to meld together atmosphere and monolithic riffs, beginning with a lengthy but beautiful and melancholy introduction before exploding into a wall of double bass pedal, paired with heavy guitars and bellowing vocals.
Album interlude Hands Folded, Eyes to the Sky wouldn't sound out of place on a Russian Circles album and serves as the introduction to another fantastic cut from the album in the form of Sink or Swim. Here, the vocals are clean, gentle and soothing, matching the ethereal tones of the guitars and sounding very much like a calm ocean, right before a tumultuous wave of water crashes over the listener and engulfs them in a sea of crashing drums and pounding guitar riffs. It would be erroneous to say that this album is anything unique or ground-breaking in terms of it's style and execution. But what can be noted is that Swallow the Ocean's one and only album (it being a relatively short affair) is a satisfying post metal experience. Undoubtedly overlooked upon it's original release eleven years ago, it is a hidden gem that deserves to be unearthed by those who enjoy acts whom helped to define the genre into what it has become in the modern age.
Dancing Upon a Sinking Vessel
Sink or Swim