Review: “Self Titled” by Oceans of Slumber

The self titled record is often seen from the outside as a record that a band feels defines their sound and is perhaps the way that the artist collective see their musical journey continuing. Truth is, that often is not the case and most bands music shifts between recording naturally with the age of the band members, the varying influences on their lives and the situation in hand each playing a pivotal role in what a record is going to sound like. This is the fourth studio record for US Progressive Metal titans Oceans Of Slumber, a band who have flourished since the arrival of vocalist Cammie Gilbert for 2015’s “Blue” EP, building on the foundations they had already put in place with with 2013’s debut “Aetherial“. As a record, it is one with a very modern construction with all of Dobber Beverly’s drums and Cammie Gilbert’s vocals recorded at Southwing Audio in Houston, Texas (with engineers Chris Kritkos and Mark Lopez respectively) being the only conventional studio time. The guitars from Jessie Santos and Alexander Lucian, the bass from Semir Özerkan and Mat V. Aleman’s keyboards along with unclean vocals from both Özerkan and Lucian were recorded a drummer Dobber Beverly’s home studio. That left the final mix to be completed, a task handled by Dan Swanö, the Edge Of Sanity mastermind and esteemed Swedish production guru…

…A somber and powerful opening with a storytelling lyrical style and ethereal beauty “Soundtrack To My Last Day” is a sinister statement piece for Oceans of Slumber. Gilbert’s vocals are velvety smooth against a scenic backdrop of gently brooding guitars before the crushing down strike of the uncleans, blast beats and dark dirgy guitars in the final third that almost catches you off guard when it hits. As a song it’s a tour de force through the different elements that create the bands signature sound and is a stunning opening. Turning with melodic grace into “Pray For Fire“, another beautiful song that allows Gilbert’s vocals and lyrics to breathe with a sinister undercurrent that threatens to rise to the surface at any point is a master stroke. While the heavier guitar work is kept to a minimum in the opening flourishes, it builds the atmosphere, which is that of a gentle wind that reaches a stormy and thunderous crescendo before a spoken word from Gilbert that is stunning. The story is clearly a personal one and delivered with emotive embrace. “A Return To The Earth Below” has a science fiction warped synth sound during it’s most gentle parts as the tale of a broken relationship over the first three cuts reaches an epic conclusion. The soundscape is of cinematic quality and should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about the bands ability to create music to match the power of their vocalist. Chilling instrumental moments light up “Imperfect Divinity” with a edge of sinister darkness and like a thriller, you’re never quite sure what is going to happen next…

…That palette cleansing moment sets up the monstrous “The Adorned Fathomless Creation” for an instantly heavier opening that wastes no time on an introduction and dives straight into the uncleans throat shredding vocals before tailing off into progressive melody in the second verse. Rising back up like a violent storm at Sea, it works in movements to combine the light and shade in beauty and beast fashion, both going to war and both coming out the victor and topped off with a sublime solo. A false ending that brings back a Death Metal punch for a final verse is a master stroke of craftsmanship that makes way for the brilliance of “To The Sea“, a song that name checks the bands name within it’s lyrics and deserves to be performed at a venue like the Albert Hall or the Sydney Opera House, such is it’s epic grandeur. The pain of “The Colors Of Grace” is there fall all to see and the intertwining male and female clean vocal parts make for an interesting change up in a somber and almost mournful song that has the hope of tomorrow within it, if we can just get through today. An Aching piano introduction to “I Mourn These Yellowed Leaves” continues the somber chapter with an a touch of self immolation, a jaded sense of seeing the World through tired eyes lingers. However there is a Death Metal beast that lurks within and jackhammer footwork ignites the flames and keeps things rumbling on with an aura and energy rather than allowing them to fall into meaningless meanderings and the result is mesmeric and spellbinding…

…The second palette cleansing moment of clarity comes in instrumental “September (Those Who Come Before)“, a song of piano complexity with orchestral movements that build slowly on something that sounds like it belongs to Hans Zimmer or on the soundtrack to Disney’s Fantasia. It also serves as an introduction to “Total Failure Apparatus“, a blisteringly powerful cut that has echos of Progressive Death Metal acts like Allegaeon as a stormy encounter that also has a certain amount of Black Metal influence upon it. How the styles of music are combined is what makes Oceans of Slumber a majestic beast, each moment clearly thought out and cleverly constructed to create a harmonious entity that moves between Worlds of light and dark. The break out Black Metal moment in the final third of this cut with it’s group vocal and blistering blast beats before a gigantic roar is something you would not have expected from its humble beginnings but delivers a satisfying crunch when it is least expected. “The Red Flower” then turns back to an aching melody with Gilbert’s vocal power given center stage once more for another moment of epic grandeur. The surprise of the album has to be the inclusion of a cover of “Wolf Moon” by Type O Negative. Usually with a self titled record, it’s about showcasing the bands own material but to say that Oceans of Slumber do this song justice is the understatement of the year. They put their own stamp on it, while leaving enough of the original in place to make it distinctly recognizable – and – some how manage to make it in keeping with the album itself. A more fitting tribute to the late Peter Steele, 10 years after his death, you are unlikely to find [9/10]

Track listing

1. Soundtrack To My Last Day
2. Pray For Fire
3. A Return To The Earth Below
4. Imperfect Divinity (Instrumental)
5. The Adorned Fathomless Creation
6. To The Sea
7. The Colors Of Grace
8. I Mourn These Yellowed Leaves
9. September (Those Who Come Before) (Instrumental)
10. Total Failure Apparatus
11. The Red Flower
12. Wolf Moon (Including Zoanthrophic Paranoia) (Type O Negative Cover)

Self Titled” by Oceans of Slumber is out 4th September via Century Media

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