As broad and difficult to define as the sweeping and diverse geography which characterizes their home state, Texas-based Oceans of Slumber return with an album more expansive in scope than any prior offering in their discography. Though it may fall primarily under the progressive metal umbrella, the self-titled “Oceans Of Slumber” crosses from the softer intricacies of progressive metal to the flesh-tearing aggression which has long marked the piquing extremity of death metal. Reaching across these boundaries with rare artistic fluidity, the Houston sextet uses two guitars working in harmonious fashion alongside keyboard and piano melodies for additional vibrancy alongside an often gothic timbre.
The many facets Oceans of Slumber have embraced over a career which began in 2013 only blossom further in the invigorating heights within “Oceans Of Slumber,” invoking emotions while aweing listeners with dexterous compositional vision. Where “The Banished Heart” poised the band for an expansion to the scope seen within “Oceans Of Slumber,” experiencing this twelve-track opus in its entirety constitutes a sonic journey like no other both within the Oceans of Slumber discography and the greater progressive metal scene.
The absolute star of Oceans of Slumber is front-woman Cammie Gilbert, the poetically angelic voice which gracefully paints the stories of “Oceans Of Slumber.” Having caught the eye of Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen and earning a role on the album “Transitus,” Gilbert has demonstrated growth and a broadening vocal scope since 2018’s “The Banished Heart.” And while she has her share of versatile vocal capabilities, they do not place her under the same umbrella as the long-heralded symphonic metal queens such as Floor Jansen and Tarja. Gilbert flourishes by taking “Oceans Of Slumber” as an opportunity to lean full-force into her unique vocal talents, resounding depths at the bottom of her register through the Southern touches which truly set her apart as a distinct vocal entity. “Pray For Fire” sees her embrace the powerful vessel of spoken word, in which her voice resounds with a celestial might and omnipotent authority across a strikingly poetic verse. Embracing both femininity and intensity where they belong rightfully entwined with one another, the imploring verses of “A Return to the Earth Below” open the listener’s heart for piercing vulnerability.
“Pray For Fire” is the album’s second track, and one of the strongest in the entire Oceans of Slumber catalog. Not only does it see Gilbert stretching her vocal prowess to some of her greatest heights yet, each of the seven and a half minutes are teeming with carefully constructed melodies and artistically layered instrumentation. From acoustic-tinged opening notes to a thundering chorus cloaked in persistent drums, “Pray For Fire” is both a hymn and harbinger of dusk. Nothing is stylistically off limits in “Oceans Of Slumber,” highlighted particularly well in the vast scope of “Total Failure Apparatus” which swings from elegant orchestral passages in through the arctic frost of blackened death metal. With three new additions to the Oceans of Slumber lineup since the last album, “Total failure Apparatus” is a striking opportunity for the new faces of the band’s harsh vocals to prove themselves in a desolate landscape of anguished howling and aggression. Distorted guitars emerge as the track progresses from Gilbert’s almost tranquil darkness before giving over completely into a cacophony of chaotic drums and electric discord. “The Adorned Fathomless Creation” also shows off the vocal chops of the updated lineup, the growls stuffed full of gravel without losing the effects of careful enunciation as the song progresses.
Death metal influences also make their mark on the opening track “Soundtrack to My Last Day,” a lengthy song which encompasses both the tenderness and ominous undertones which flow effortlessly throughout “Oceans of Slumber.” This variety, persisting both within tracks and across the whole of the album, follows an organic yet dynamic pattern of growth. A nearly mournful serenity surrounds “To The Sea,” its peaceful waters matched by the instrumental escapism in the cinematic heavens of “September.” Such tranquility is splintered by the fervor of “The Adorned Fathomless Creation,” a relentless fight against the shadows which Gilbert tentatively embodies much more delicately in the preceding “A Return to the Earth Below.”
The attention paid to the songwriting of “Oceans Of Slumber” is most notable in those passages of pure instrumentation, primarily the captivating depths of “September,” the highlight track for founding member, songwriter, drummer, and pianist Dobber Beverly. Serving as a prelude to the fires of “Total Failure Apparatus,” the instrumental isolation and composition stand up even in the absence of Gilbert’s all-consuming vocal presence. It’s also worth noting that among the hints of reverence for the iconic Opeth sound, “Oceans of Slumber” was mixed by none other than Dan Swano himself, adding to this album’s list of defining features. If there is anything which holds this album down, it is the length of the album in its entirety. For the most part, “Oceans of Slumber” proves over and over that each track is deserving of its length, with the full breadth of its longest “I Mourn These Yellow Leaves” justifying the time behind it. Yet as a whole, “Oceans of Slumber” is something of a titanic listening commitment with its run time stretching well over the one-hour mark. Still, for prog metal aficionados and any music lover seeking to immerse themselves in an unforgettable metal experience, “Oceans of Slumber” is well worth the runtime.
Released By: Century Media Records
Release Date: September 4th, 2020
Genre: Progressive Metal
- Dobber Beverly / Drums, Piano
- Cammie Gilbert / Vocals
- Mat V. Aleman / Keyboards
- Semir Ozerkan / Bass
- Jessie Santos / Guitars
- Alexander Lucian / Guitars
“Oceans of Slumber” Track-listing:
- Soundtrack to My Last Day
- Pray for Fire
- A Return to the Earth Below
- Imperfect Divinity
- The Adorned Fathomless Creation
- To The Sea
- The Colors of Grace
- I Mourn These Yellow Leaves
- September (Those Who Come Before)
- Total Failure Apparatus
- The Red Flower
- Wolf Moon
Cataclysmic sonic violence and awesomely evocative instrumental beauty thrive alongside one another in Oceans of Slumber’s self-titled album “Oceans of Slumber.” Capturing the untamed and visionary creative hearts behind the band in unparalleled splendor, this album is one that fans of gothic darkness and vocal grandeur cannot afford to miss.