Oceans Of Slumber – ‘OCEANS OF SLUMBER’

By Ian Kenworthy

Two years after the brooding melancholy of ‘The Banished Heart’, progressive-metallers Oceans Of Slumber invite you aboard their latest odyssey. Turbulent times and a change to the line-up means this is a perfect opportunity to re-establish their sound, so it’s no surprise this is a self-titled record. As their work brims with a dark atmosphere and never compromises, the impatient and faint of heart need not apply.

For the unfamiliar, Oceans Of Slumber are often described as Opeth with a female vocalist, which is a disservice of sorts, but also provides a good frame of reference.  Both bands are rooted in metal, both favour long compositions, both can be crushingly heavy and both embrace a wide progressive rock palette. However, Oceans Of Slumber have a secret weapon, Cammie Gilbert’s voice is incredibly powerful and it gives their music a very different feel.

For this self-titled record the band are exploring just what their sound can be and have crafted an epic, anguished journey. It begins with the deep gothic metal of ‘Soundtrack To My Last Day’ which quickly reveals itself to be the head of a twisting and turning serpent, changing direction and biting from different angles. Like many of the songs here, it contains acoustic passages built around atmosphere while also fully committing to death growls, double kickdrums and blast beats. In a similar vein ‘The Adorned Fathomless Creation’ blends ferocious death-metal and the slow crushing power of doom to create a sound that is part haunted lover, part wounded creature. As the run-time progresses and more songs reveal their nature, you begin to understand that this album is a restless stream of consciousness, constantly changing and shifting in mood and tone to create a complex, beautifully complete picture.

As with their previous records, no two songs follow the same approach, leading a varied spectrum of sounds, ranging from the slow and beautiful ‘The Colors Of Grace’ to the full-blown attack of ‘Total Failure Apparatus’ and everything in between, frequently in the same song. It’s stunning to hear, but takes time to properly appreciate. Neophytes beware, the entire album follows this pattern, but it is worth every second you spend with it.

Cammie Gilbert is regarded as one of the best singers in metal and it is not hard to see why. Here, she combines a soulful, honest delivery with powerful hooks and making her voice the most important piece of the puzzle. The one constant, this album literally would not work without her vocals tying everything together, more so than the band’s previous records; whether it’s the simple sorrowful confession of ‘The Red Flower’ or the way her voice soars above the doom-laden ‘A Return Of The Earth Below’ she puts on a stunning display of emotion, yet she always lets the music breathe.

Throughout all the shifting tempos, massive soaring vocals and plunging emotional depths, Oceans Of Slumber retain a sense of majesty that is difficult to ignore, especially during the album’s relatively straightforward midpoint where the beauty of ‘To The Sea’ and ‘Colors of Grace’ feel serene rather than the calm amongst a storm.

Unwilling to compromise and driven by a thirst for exploration Oceans Of Slumber have created a gothic metal opus. It might take time to work its way under your skin, but it is more than worth the effort. ‘Oceans Of Slumber’ is a dark, tempestuous journey, and a beguiling beautiful album.

IAN KENWORTHY

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