Releasing their fourth album in only six years, all on Earache, Chicago, Illinois’ Oceano don’t do two things – subtlety or surprises. Wading in like a behemoth sumo, with each stab of the guitar representing a tree-trunk leg thudding down and with each pig squeal signifying the friction of flabby thigh slapping flabby thigh, the beatdown-focused Ascendants lumbers into town, modelling deathcore 101 with the open string chug enhanced by some tight and imaginative percussive work.
Taking their cue from Thy Art Is Murder and All Shall Perish’s more staccato moments, Oceano’s is a considered violence, a repetitive ham-hock fist to the head with pendulum regularity and in no particular rush; it’s the troll wading through the sea of bodies that are trying to force it back in an exercise in futility. For those who enjoy their pro-wrestling, they are the Big Show; cumbersome, but effective (and somehow higher-profile than you think they deserve to be, and you prefer the other, more interesting wrestlers anyway….).
Oceano are also beginning to suffer from the inevitable law of diminishing returns. If their debut, Depths, one of the best examples of deathcore to date, showcased diversity in amongst the rhythmic bullying chug and Contagion had a darker, twisted feel, Ascendants is Oceano at their lowest common denominator, most Neanderthal, a notion that is enhanced by ‘Dawn of Descent’ and it’s more atmospheric endeavours, which help it stand out in a sea of proto-human repetitive pounding.
Other acts, in particular Suicide Silence, have shown it’s possible to continue to progress a sound and develop as a band while retaining a deathcore identity (though the further they, and others move from the deathcore “core” the more successful they are and the better they sound), but Ascendants is still a decent, if unspectacular, repetitive brain injury of a deathcore album. With (another) new line up in place, one wonders about the future of Oceano as not even by playing it safe and playing the genre card to the max – for this is dictionary definition beatdown laden deathcore – is enough to bring Ascendants up to the level of their previous outings.