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Oceans Of Slumber - Oceans Of Slumber review

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Band: Oceans Of Slumber
Album: Oceans Of Slumber
Release date: September 2020

01. Soundtrack To My Last Day
02. Pray For Fire
03. A Return To The Earth Below
04. Imperfect Divinity
05. The Adorned Fathomless Creation
06. To The Sea
07. The Colors Of Grace
08. I Mourn These Yellow Leaves
09. September (Those Who Come Before)
10. Total Failure Apparatus
11. The Red Flower
12. Wolf Moon [Type O Negative cover]

Oceans Of Slumber have taken their music in a more grandiose and spectacular direction, and with it comes things both good and not quite so good.

Since bringing Cammie Gilbert into the fold on vocals, Oceans Of Slumber have transformed themselves from a promising but slightly unremarkable progressive death metal band into a group with a distinctive sound and approach, and have benefited greatly in terms of exposure and recognition. Winter was a solid first outing, whilst The Banished Heart saw the group building on that success with longer songs and new approaches. I was quite surprised when I saw the tracklist and artwork for their next offering, Oceans Of Slumber; between the wordy song titles ("The Adorned Fathomless Creation" and "To The Sea (A Tolling Of The Bells" are a long way from the likes of "Devout" and "Sunlight" on Winter) and the fantasy-style artwork, the package seemed to indicate a proggier approach this time around, perhaps more in line with their pre-Gilbert debut Aetherial. Oceans Of Slumber isn't really a return to that prog death style, but it does see the band in a more extravagant and majestic mood than its predecessors.

Since Gilbert joined the band, Oceans Of Slumber have been less a progressive death band, and slightly more a prog metal band with extreme moments, and that remains the case on this record. There are plenty of patches of intensity here, brief stretches of blasting, screams and tremolo, with about half the tracks featuring at least some extreme metal moments; however, the only tracks on which I would say extreme metal was a dominant feature rather than a brief palette cleanser are "The Adorned Fathomless Creation" and "Total Failure Apparatus". Outside of those songs, drummer and sole remaining founding member Dobber Beverly finds various opportunities to spice up otherwise more sedate passages with blast beats and double bass rolls, taking the main supporting role during many portions of Oceans Of Slumber. However, the majority of the album instrumentally is on the calmer side of things, whether led by piano (which is more prominent than on past records), synths, clean or acoustic guitars, or distorted but more muted riffs, all of which work nicely in filling in the background whilst the vocals take centre stage.

Gilbert is once again the star here, taking on the lion's share of vocal responsibilities here (although in addition to occasional growls or screams, there is a clean male voice on the lush duet "The Colors Of Grace") and shining whilst doing so, elevating the stronger moments on the album and saving the weaker patches. She's equally capable of delivering lung-busting power and moments of quieter vulnerability, and incorporates melodic approaches from outside of metal to good effect, whether the elaborate call-and-response with herself in the latter stretches of "The Adorned Fathomless Creation" or the soul-influenced melodies towards the end of "To The Sea", probably one of the standout moments on the record. Most of my personal highlights of Oceans Of Slumber belong to Gilbert; in addition to "To The Sea", she carries "Pray For Fire" nicely (although I'm not entirely in love with the spoken word climax), and brings the power to give "A Return To The Earth Below" the grandstand finale it aims for, somewhat in line with "The Banished Heart" from the previous album.

So the vocals sound great, the drums are busy, and there's some nice endings to the songs; what's the "not quite so good" I mentioned at the beginning? Well, in making the album proggier and more grandiose, the album of course had to be longer. As much as I've liked Oceans Of Slumber's previous records, I've felt that they tend to drag, and that's very much the case with Oceans Of Slumber; clocking in at around 70 minutes, it's 5 and 10 minutes longer than The Banished Heart and Winter, respectively, and it really feels it. I'm not at all against long albums on principle, but the longer the album gets, the higher the quality of the music that makes the cut needs to be to sustain interest throughout, and whilst I think pretty much all the songs on Oceans Of Slumber are solid, none of them stand out to me as having that X factor of "Winter" or "The Banished Heart" (maybe if they'd given the album a proper title, the title track would have managed to deliver on that front based on their previous albums), which means that by the time we're getting to "The Red Flower", a piano-dominated vehicle for some passionate singing from Gilbert after several songs/patches already of Gilbert and piano only, energy levels are starting to bottom out.

With the move towards the spectacular, there's also been a move away from the enjoyable verse/chorus 4/4 simplicity of something like "Suffer The Last Bridge" from Winter; there's moments that lean towards that way, such as in "Pray For Fire", but the song structures are fairly consistently complex and prog-heavy (the piano-led pieces aside, perhaps), and across such a long album it doesn't help with making the songs engaging enough to keep listeners fully hooked. Whilst there's variety in approach across the record, there's a bit of a lack of songs or moments that provide simple entertainment; this is clearly a stylistic choice from Oceans Of Slumber, and one that they've vocalised in press releases regarding the album, but I think they may benefit from working some more straightforward pleasures back into their sound in future, particularly if they persist with such lengthy records. As for where this album could lose time, there's no obvious clunkers, but two 4-minute synth/piano-led instrumentals is perhaps slightly excessive, and the closing Type O Negative cover "Wolf Moon", decent as it is, doesn't quite live up to their interpretation of "Nights In White Satin", and arguably isn't best placed as a closing song; I would normally assume that it was a bonus track, but I haven't seen anything that indicates it to be.

The approach Oceans Of Slumber have taken here is interesting and brings with it some great moments; I wouldn't necessarily say it was an improvement on their style on Winter, as both have their own merits, but it helps Oceans Of Slumber stand as its own record, and an enjoyable one it is at that. Having said that, it was a listen that has generally left me slightly low on patience at the end of each playthrough, and I wouldn't have felt a great urge to revisit it in a hurry if I wasn't doing so for review purposes. I can definitely see it being a record that rewards repeat listens as one familiarises oneself with its song structures and various elaborate vocal melodies; however, reaching that point may be an obstacle for some listeners.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 9

Written on 02.09.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 5   Visited by: 166 users
04.09.2020 - 01:57
Rating: 8
Lord Slothrop

A lot of your commentary about the new album is how I felt about the last two. There are aspects I love about the band and occasionally they wow me, but too often I find them tedious as well. I'll still pick up the new album, but my expectations are going to be a little lower.
04.09.2020 - 09:57
Rating: 7

Written by Lord Slothrop on 04.09.2020 at 01:57

A lot of your commentary about the new album is how I felt about the last two. There are aspects I love about the band and occasionally they wow me, but too often I find them tedious as well. I'll still pick up the new album, but my expectations are going to be a little lower.

Yeah, I feel like if I'd reviewed The Banished Heart at the time I would've also voiced concerns about the length and lack of memorability across that length, but at least on that album I felt like the title track really stood out, whilst the only one that potentially reached that level for me here was To The Sea. Still, I expect this album to get a lot of reviews that are more positive than this one, as I can see other people finding more tracks that resonate with them and render the length less of an issue
05.09.2020 - 06:56
Rating: 8
Lord Slothrop

Downloaded it last night and listened to it today. I think your review sums up my feelings about it as well, but I need to spend some more time with it. There are some fantastic parts and overall I like it, but it does drag at times. And while the music is solid, it's Cammie Gilbert that keeps me coming back. Her voice is ethereal and gorgeous and I really love the passion she puts into these songs. To the Sea is a good example, but A Return to the Earth Below was my favorite, first listen anyway.
07.09.2020 - 09:26
Enemy of Reality
Account deleted
Excellent musicians overall and it seems that they're in the verge of writing a true classical album, but there's always something missing and their songs become completely forgettable. The album's length doesn't help at all, some songs stretch out too much. It's like they have all the eggs, but the omelette turns out spoiled.
26.12.2020 - 18:23
Rating: 8

Cammie Gilbert is truly the highlight of the band, her voice pulls the album forward. The supporting instruments act as compliments to her voice rather than establishing their own significant presence. The long length of the album could have been justified if all the songs maintained the same brilliance that most of the songs feature, however a few songs in the middle broke the flow of the album that just didn't go with the feel that this album had to offer.
Leeches everywhere.

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