With their fondness for double-albums, imposing sound and dense lyrical themes concerning all manner of philosophical concepts, Berlin’s The Ocean have tended to put some newcomers off, who find the band as vast and unfathomable as what they’re named after. But while this trepidation is perhaps justified, those willing to take the plunge and take to the depths of Pelagial will be richly rewarded, for there’s a plethora of treasure to be found.
‘Mesopalegic: Into the Uncanny’ starts the journey off properly after a laid back intro. The meandering post metal melodies soon coalesce into a billowing riff that darts playfully here and there, with the odd snatch of Dillinger Escape Plan style heaviness. Vocalist Loic Rossetti’s heartfelt croons may take a song or two to get used to, but those put off by his exhalations will surely be content by his gruff and commanding bellows. There’s always the music itself of course, which surges and changes form in the way all progressive metal worth its salt should.
‘Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses’ begins with scatter-gun riff attacks before morphing into a multi-tentacled beast of driving riffs, restless percussion and commanding vocal shouts. The strong grasp of melody remains constant throughout, and it’s a testament to the skills of the members that they can sound off the wall one minute and approaching mainstream acceptability the next. This is maintained throughout the Mastodon-esque ‘Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams’ and the frenetic time changes and blastbeats of ‘Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibrated’ which approaches death metal territory in terms of aggression while never straying too far from the core of the band’s sound.
Next track ‘Abyssopelagic I: Boundless Vasts’ cheekily re-uses a riff or two from earlier on, but reinforces it with more spiralling melodies and deviations so that the felling of progression remains uncompromised, and makes the album feel like one giant symphony, rather than a collection of mere songs. Thus, the move into the gorgeous post-rock chords of ‘Abyssopelagic II: Signal of Anxiety’ and it’s perfectly measured chorus is a wholly natural one. Rossetti really impresses on this one, demonstrating the full depth of his range with apparent ease.
Those hankering after some really lengthy numbers to sink their teeth into won’t be disappointed with the nine minutes plus of ‘Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe’ which builds in momentum and power before crashing into rapture with a sound that could maybe be described as A Perfect Circle covering Isis. The prog elements are dragged to the surface once more so we get restless piano, mournful violin and sections of barely controlled hush. The similarly lengthy ‘Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance’ is more of a standard post-metal track with its marching riffs and Cult Of Luna style atmospherics but all the while infused with a restless energy that rouses a wide grin. The sheer heaviness helps as well.
It’s far too often these days that albums are referred to as ‘a journey’, but in the case of Pelagial, it’s an epithet that’s more than justified. Featuring more twists and turns than a F1 racing track, and an abundance of melodic intuition and stellar songwriting chops, this is a more than worthy follow-up to previous material and a record that deserves to be explored and cherished.