SKILLET w/, Red Gazelle & RedHook Big Top, Luna Park, Sydney Thursday 15th November, 2018 …
The Ocean Take Us Back By The Eons On The Sprawling Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic.
Prog-sludge metallers (how’s that for a genre combo eh?) The Ocean have always had a larger than life sound—and they’re sure as hell keen to remind listeners about that on their new LP Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic.
This record is all things that make The Ocean so special. From Robin Staps bold concepts, to a spell check nightmare when it comes to the names of the songs (Ordovicium: The Glaciation of Gondwana takes nearly as long to type as it’s five minute groove-based duration), the five years between drinks has clearly not affected the hunger these gentlemen have for the riff.
Kicking back into their Precambrian concept, which was halted ten years ago with the LP by the same name, the one-two of The Cambrian Explosion & Cambrian II: Eternal Recurrence hauls us back to the band’s more crushing sound of the mid noughties.
Phanerozoic might not have the elegance of 2013’s masterpiece Pelagic, but nor does it try. This is in your face, ugly and loud— just the way we like it.
The biggest change of note here is the addition of synths at the forefront of the mix. New band-member Vincent Membrez bubbles to the surface in a dark twist in Cambrian II, before retreating to the shadows, only to be (notably) revealed again on the sweeping Devonian: Nascent, alongside Katatonia frontman Jonas Renkse. The addition of synths to this record is a hugely welcome one for the band. The work of Membrez helps to alleviate any sense of ‘sameness’ that inevitably can work its way into 11 minute sludge epics, adding a mixture of dark atmospherics and angelic colour to the numbers.
Whilst clocking in with only seven tracks, these songs take their time to develop but avoid any sense of congestion. Silurian: Age of Sea Scorpions admittedly drags its feet a bit, but the string infused second movement is hard to look past as one of the best moments of this record. The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse on the other hand offers three minutes of layered metal guitars tinged with psychedelia, reminding all that they can be conservative with the clock if they wish.
As Permian: The Great Dying marches to a steady conclusion, it’s hard to not be excited to hear what is to come from this band (there is a companion double LP due out 2019). 18 years in, and The Ocean show no sign of limiting their creative ambition. Phanerozoic might not have the elegance of 2013’s masterpiece Pelagic, but nor does it try. This is in your face, ugly and loud— just the way we like it.