This is the third Oceans of Slumber album I’m reviewing for Heavy Blog. Not to rehash the past too much but my relationship with the band has been marked with constant improvement and growing affection; Winter, the first album of theirs I reviewed for the blog, back in 2016, let a lot to be desired, literally. It was a promising album but one marred by structural flows. 2018’s The Banished Heart dealt with all of those structural problems and finally presented a more cohesive, and intensely satisfying, vision for the band. And now, two more years later (Oceans of Slumber are a hard working band if nothing else), Oceans of Slumber are poised to release a self-titled album and the tidings are good; instead of treading in place after The Banished Heart, the band have decided to dig deeper into their sound and bring something new forth.
This something new can mainly be found in the band’s focus on their more ambient and atmospheric side. Oceans of Slumber were always assembled from a potent mix between progressive death metal in the vein of Opeth‘s mid-era albums and more melodic, progressive metal. Bridging the distance between these two sounds, or perhaps even creating that distance, were periods of charged silence, a simmering of synths and softer vocal lines. On Oceans of Slumber, the band lean way deeper into these quieter moments as an instrument for creating tension and contrast and it pays off immensely.
Check out the doublet of “Imperfect Divinity” and “The Adorned Fathomless Creation” for example. The former is all simmer; deep synths and faintly strummed guitars work with echoing drums to create a haunting sort of atmosphere, as of something unveiling itself slowly. Over the course of the track, these melodies are kept understated, creeping, even though the track itself is not that short. It’s more time than most bands, Oceans of Slumber included, spend on “just” an interlude; instead it is an organic part of the album. This part comes to fruition at the track’s end and evolves into “The Adorned Fathomless Creation”, which opens with wonderfully pronounced growls and a killer, pick sweep filled riff a la Morbid Angel. This riffs provides the initial thrust of the track, quickly picked up by Cammie Gilbert’s always excellent vocals.
But the track doesn’t just stick to the heaviness; that sweeping, melodic progressive metal sound that has always characterized the band returns. But this time, it sounds a bit different, informed by “Imperfect Divinity”‘s more majestic silence; the softer parts echo the silences of the atmosphere which preceded them. Nor is this a fluke. This kind of balance, between quiet, heaviness, and epic melodies, happens all across the album on tracks like “Pray for Fire” (one of the strongest on the album) and the doom-inflected “I Mourn These Yellowed Leaves”. The result is a dynamic, hard-hitting album that does a great job in taking the band’s sound into new places, new relationships forming between their different parts, instead of just reiterating on past successes.
Oceans of Slumber releases on September 4th via Century Media. You can head on over here to pre-order it.