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Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Ocean - PELAGIAL (Review)

ARTIST:  The Ocean
ALBUM:  Pelagial
LABEL:   Metalblade Records
RELEASE:  Monday 29th April 2013 (UK)

Loic Rosetti - Vocals
Jonathan Nido - Guitar
Robin Staps - Guitar
Luc Hess - Drums
Louis Jucker - Bass

Here we have the seventh full offering from German post/progressive metal band The Ocean, who have resurfaced (sorry) after completing 2 years of extensive touring across the US and Europe. They decided to return to Berlin to work on Pelagial, and having retained the same lineup for the last 3 albums, you can hear their progression as a unit now; the band have never sounded tighter or more focused.

Pelagial is a proper concept album; a 53-minute continuous piece that traverses the five pelagic depth zones of the ocean (Epipelagic, Mesopelagic, Bathyalpelagic, Abyssopelagic, and Hadopelagic) - starting at the surface and descending deeper and darker into chaos. This is heard in everything on the album, as the light guitar tone and riffage of the first few tracks gives way to a sludgier doom-metal sound, with the production transitioning from lighter and crunchier to deeper and more sinister, giving the impression of suffocation under the heightened water pressure. Resisting as many puns as possible in this review, one word that simply must be used to describe the album is 'deep'. You really do feel like you are journeying down as the album progresses, and by the time you reach the Hadopelagic zone it is hard not to feel submersed.

In the vein of many other concept albums, there are certain passages that you will hear again and again throughout the 53 or so minutes, which I personally love. There is brilliant riff after brilliant riff, and that's a good sign at an early stage with the type of album that rewards you more and more after repeated listenings due to it's complex nature and layered production. 

Beginning with 'Epipelagic' which is a beautiful piano piece that introduces us to the surface, we can close our eyes and feel the transition from one song to another, without necessarily knowing where each track finishes and the next begins. This is an album which really does flow effortlessly, unlike some in the past that have simply felt too jagged and contrived to really be considered as one continuous piece. The 'Bathyalpelagic' zone is where the metal really begins, and where we hear the band's familiar sound. Originally meant to be an instrumental album, in the end the band decided to use Loic Rosetti's vocals after he conquered health problems that initially kept him from being considered. Guitarist Jonathan Nido said ''Loic is the frontman of this band and we all felt that Ocean and this album needed him, and although we were quite used to the instrumentals I'm glad we decided to record vocals in the end, because it really adds a new dimension to the album that was not there before.''

Pelagial will arrive with two discs, with the second simply offering the original intrumental version of the album. As much as Rosetti is an accomplished singer, I felt that I enjoyed the album more and was able to better realise the scope of the sound without his vocals. Clean singing makes several appearances on this album and that may not go down too well with hardcore fans of the more metal side of the band. However I must state that The Ocean have always been a metal band and this is most definitely a 'metal' album. As Pelagial journeys deeper we hear a crushing post-metal tone that bands like Neurosis and Cult of Luna have been perfecting for years. You can also hear bands like Opeth and Mastodon during the Bathyalpelagic section whilst the band still retain their own sound. 

This band do not make bad albums, and Pelagial is  probably most coherent album to date, and arguably their best (too early to tell if it's a 'Precambrian' beater!) 
It deserves to be a candidate for metal album of 2013 and I hope to see its name mentioned in 8 months time.

4.5 *
- Scotty

Check out ''Bathyalpelagic Part II:'' here:

1.   Epipelagic
2.   Mesopelagic:  Into the Uncanny
3.   Bathyalpelagic I:  Impasses
4.   Bathyalpelagic II:  The Wish in Dreams
5.   Bathyalpelagic III:  Disequillibrated
6.   Abyssopelagic I:  Boundless Vasts
7.   Abyssopelagic II:  Signals of Anxiety
8.   Hadopelagic I:  Omen of the Deep
9.   Hadopelagic II:  Let them Believe
10.  Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance
11.  Benthic:  The Origin of our Wishes

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