The Ocean – Pelagial
Metal Blade Records 2013
Throughout the sprawl of their inventive back catalogue The Ocean have routinely exemplified traits of progression and grace. Having already penned thematic albums with topics as heady as religious philosophy and planetary formation; it’s almost welcoming that inspiration was sought in a more commonplace muse this time out.
Envisioning this latest opus as a singular 53 minute piece; “Pelagial” finds the band providing the instrumental soundtrack to a descent through the body of water from which they took their namesake. Starting on the surface and slowly plummeting to the murky depths, it’s a surprisingly effective and well executed concept. They didn’t stop there however. The ante is upped further by drawing lyrical inspiration from the self discovery plot found in the the 1979 Russian film, “Stalker“.
The onset of the album is certainly inviting enough, as shimmering post rock and restrained aggression establish an air of relative calm. Ever the practitioners of off-kilter melody and angular riffs though, it doesn’t take long for the current to shift. The material soon veers towards the discordant territory inhabited by the likes of Baroness and Mastodon—a band whom they expertly shadow on “Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams“.
As the opus moves onward—or in this case downward—so too does their musical palette. Bleaker tones are implemented, the weight and pressure increases, and the band adjust accordingly to their proverbial lessened mobility. It’s truly a desolate voyage as they delve deeper into the darkness of their own conceptual construct.
An endeavor made all the more somber when one realizes there is no happy ending; for the ultimate destination is an onslaught of noise laden lethargy perfected by Neurosis. Where “Pelagial” succeeds is in its marriage of passion and concept. It’s not just astute musicianship and grandiose songwriting. There’s an actual emotional punch behind the playing that keeps it from pretense.
Ever ones to step outside themselves, the gravitas from the accompanying strings, piano and more also greatly enhance the experience. As riveting as it all can be though, “Pelagial” is not a flawless undertaking. For you see the band originally wrote the album without vocals in mind. A decision that led them to release it both instrumentally and with their singer Loïc Rossetti‘s contributions.
By no fault of his own then, there’s times where a resulting disconnect between the band and Rossetti emerges. For lesser talented vocalists this would be a death knell, but to his credit, Rossetti does often persevere.
As hokey as it may seem for a band named The Ocean to take on an aquatic motif, it certainly isn’t a hindrance here. “Pelagial” may not be their most cohesive venture to date, but it is certainly among their most vast and imaginative.
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