The Ocean – ‘Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic’

By Liam Knowles

Let’s skip the usual journalistic pussyfooting and get to the point: this band should be fucking massive. An effortless amalgam of the swirling, syncopated rhythms of Tool, the progressive theatrics of Mastodon, and the full-throated post-sludge of Cult Of Luna; The Ocean have been the best kept secret in metal since their inception in the early 2000s, and if there’s any justice in the world, ‘Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic’ will be the album to pull them out of the metal underground’s primordial ooze and into the hearts and minds of all lovers of challenging heavy music.

The scope of this album’s ambition is vast, as it attempts to carry on from where the last album left off; contextualising the last 541 million years of life on this planet. Creating a cohesive palaeontology concept album would be an incredibly daunting task for most bands, but after honing their craft and pushing their own boundaries for the best part of two decades, The Ocean pull it off faultlessly. From the hypnotic beginnings of ‘Triassic’, the band begin to build layers of sound that ebb and flow like ocean water, and fall into the cracks of each other like the sediment of the earth.

Following this, the stop start beginning of ‘Jurassic | Cretaceous’ hits like the impact of a meteor, and from there we’re taken on an expansive journey that showcases every single sound The Ocean are capable of creating. You might expect those sounds to be mostly heavy, but on tracks like ‘Eocene’ and the instrumental ‘Oligocene’ we see the band fully lean into their softer side, allowing the sweeping sheets of delay-drenched guitars do the talking, accompanied at times by impassioned clean vocals. This only serves to make the relentless trudge of ‘Miocene | Pliocene’ and the scorching blastbeats of ‘Pleistocene’ hit even harder by contrast. As the album is extinguished by closer ‘Holocene’, the disembodied voices from the opening track return, signifying the cyclical nature of life, and the earth’s ability to regrow from destruction.

If you haven’t already gathered, ‘Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic’ is a complex, multi-faceted beast, and as such will take a few listens before its secrets start to reveal themselves. That being said, it’s under an hour long, so is not as huge an undertaking as you might expect, and its brevity should work to its advantage in terms of getting listeners to stick with it til it clicks for them. This album is more than worth the investment of your time, particularly if you enjoy the more challenging, less immediate side of heavy music. Paired with its predecessor, we have on our hands some of the most exciting and interesting metal of this century. Check it out some time before our extinction level event – it could be sooner than you think.

LIAM KNOWLES

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