Metal Blade 2010
While The Ocean have certainly followed an artistic muse throughout the years, the concept and expanse of ideas they tackle upon “Heliocentric” are ambitious to say the least.
The first part in a series of two interlinked albums that explore Christianity, creationism, celestial bodies and the philosophical views surrounding them throughout the ages; one has to wonder if new vocalist Loic Rossetti knew what he was getting himself into when he joined the band late last year during its recording.
Not just a placeholder though, Rossetti‘s addition plays a key role on this album, with his pronounced melodic range being thoroughly exploited throughout. But such usage is not without consequence as “Heliocentric” moves further away from The Ocean‘s past aggressive tendencies and headlong into more lush, textured environments.
True this means the band may no longer be extensively mining the back catalogue of Neurosis and Isis, but that doesn’t mean they are entirely without peers. For as grandiose as the arrangements and usage of strings, piano and dynamic elements may be here, “Heliocentric” is readily comparable to the works of Opeth, dredg and ironically, Oceansize.
There’s subtle elements of earthy balladry and folky tenderness, resilient bass lines and dub timings and a plethora of jarringly beautiful operatic elements. What there isn’t much of on “Heliocentric” though is opposition. Inherently graceful and ominous, the continued waves of melancholy and ever so slight nuances of repressed hostility do begin to weigh the album down by the midway point.
The harsh bellows and menacing energy of the groups past seem more like bookends on this outing and this is perhaps where the albums concept gets in the way. The lack of balance and floaty momentum can only sustain elevation for so long before the lust for gravity begins to kick in. There’s nothing wrong with favoring harmony over heaviness, but after 3 or 4 monolithic tracks of gentle posturing , some listeners minds will begin to wander.
This is possibly one of the most prevalent shortcomings of releasing a concept album as broad in scope and committed as this in separate parts. The efforts companion piece, “Anthropocentric“, has been described by the band as being a heavier affair – perhaps the proverbial antagonist to “Heliocentric‘s protagonist. As such its hard not to see “Heliocentric” as untested, a sprawling peaceful ascension without the necessary resistance to give it weight.
Ultimately this is also what is most off-putting about “Heliocentric“, as the presence of an aural iconoclast ready to tear down everything the band have built up feels almost mandatory by the albums end.
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