Houston, Texas based band Oceans Of Slumber are a band who have always shown incredible potential as songwriters, fusing progressive metal, gothic metal and several other genres into a melting pot of ideas that, sadly, didn’t always work. Their previous album, Winter, for example, wavered between brilliant and cliche, sometimes in the same song. Overall, they’re put out two albums that range from decent to great, but they’ve struggled to be consistent in their tone and songwriting.
No more. With their third album The Banished Heart the band, anchored by the haunting vocal performance of frontwoman Cammie Gilbert, finally lives up to the potential they’ve always displayed, with their songwriting no longer varying in tone and quality as it tended to on previous releases.
With The Banished Heart, Oceans of Slumber have coalesced the most effective elements of their sound into a tonally consistent and effective whole, without losing any of their character. The decision to reign in some of the more disparate elements of the band’s sound allows those that work to really shine, and opening track “The Decay of Disregard” is a perfect showcase of this, the band sounding fresh and energetic despite the often morose and morbid subject matter. Gilbert’s vocal performance is the best it’s ever been, and the harsh and backing vocals, provided in turn by the other members of the band, are no slouch either, complementing Gilbert’s vocals well while never overpowering them.
The same can be said for the rest of the band, as their performances and songwriting are all a step up from previous album Winter, with The Banished Heart being quite a bit darker and heavier than anything the band have written before. The Banished Heart is not a happy album at all, perhaps drawing much of it’s energy from the personal strife Gilbert has endured since the release of Winter, losing her father to cancer being the most notable. Her lyrical skills are focused on loss, strife, endurance and tragedy on The Banished Heart, and once again we see a more consistent result than previous albums. Gilbert’s vocal delivery and lyrics were never bad, mind you, but here they’re more effective and consistent (there’s that word again, notice a pattern?) than they’ve ever been. Suffering can breed great art, and The Banished Heart is a great example of that idiom.
Perhaps the only complaint that could be leveled at this album is that the while the production is good, the mix is oftentimes very guitar centric, and while it never drowns out the lead vocals, it can be distracting at times and take away a bit of the impact of some sections. It’s not a complaint, and perhaps more personal preference than anything else, as overall the album is produced and mixed very well.
The Banished Heart is a fantastic example of darkly gothic, melancholic metal with progressive tendencies, and the band choosing to downplay some of the musical elements from past releases isn’t a detriment to their sound at all. Quite the opposite, in fact, as Oceans of Slumber have produced their best work yet, a somber but often strangely uplifting journey through personal strife and loss that deserves to propel the band to even greater heights. If they can capitalize on and expand upon this foundation, they have the potential to be a big name in the modern American metal scene.
Oceans of Slumber have put an impressive amount of work and effort into The Banished Heart and if you’re even remotely a fan of metal you owe it to yourself to give this album a listen. It’s the album we’ve been waiting for Oceans of Slumber to make, and they delivered in a big way. An impressive effort, to be sure.
The Banished Heart will be released March 2nd through Century Media, and is available for pre-order on the band’s website.