The Ocean – Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic (Album Review)

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In 2018, the progressive and post-metal band The Ocean released “Phanerozoic I: Palaeozic”, an impressive album that was received with huge critical acclaim and initiated a paleontology concept intended to be developed through two additional albums. As it usually happens with second parts, expectations were high, but there was a constant doubt about whether it will be at the same level of the first installment. It surely was not an easy task, but they managed to do it sublimely. “Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic” is a mesmerizing, innovative, experimental, and groundbreaking record that ranks as the best album recorded by The Ocean

Despite continuing the paleontology theme portrayed on “Phanerozoic I: Palaeozic”, the second part of the Phanerozoic series’ musical direction differs considerably. A bolder, more experimental, darker, and more progressive approach was reserved for the second part. The broad-ranging composition allows a surprising amount of musical passages that develop the record’s excitement, freshness, and unexpected elements. 

The mentioned approach and a more collaborative way of making music by The Ocean create a daring musical ride that explores exciting subjects. They are brilliantly developed through the parallelisms between some philosophical concepts such as existentialism, Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence and stoicism, and the extinction events during the Phanerozoic eon.  

Both concept and music direction are highly ambitious, and The Ocean certainly delivers from the first notes of the opening track “Triassic,” which quickly presents the involving and immersive atmosphere which will trap the listener throughout the Phanerozoic ride. The vocal element provided primarily by Loïc Rossetti is a vital one on this new record, and it helps creating the captivating atmosphere. Whether it is calm and hypnotizing with a soft and contained voice or furiously shaken with vivid and brutal growls, The Ocean understands perfectly how to submit the listener to a continually changing ride of emotions. In addition to Loïc’s range and other band members providing backing vocals, the vocal department’s value rises with the return of previous collaborators Tomas Liljedahl and Jonas Renkse.

“Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic” Album Artwork

The feature from Katatonia’s lead vocalist on “Jurassic | Cretaceous”, is a tour-de-force that showcases how The Ocean has mastered the craft of creating superbly woven musical landscapes. The song’s progression is remarkable, with many details to be discovered through repeated listens, such as Paul Seidel’s exquisite drumming, full of nuances and impressive technical expertise. Jonas’ appearance marks the transition between the Jurassic and Cretaceous parts, reserving the most massive section for the last period. Such epic song also marks a new musical direction taken by The Ocean, leaving also room for their previous sound plus adding experimental and innovative passages that continues their push for musical evolution. 

It is impressive how Robin Staps came up with a concept that is so well represented with the albums tracks, flowing throughout each particular period or epoch in the geologic time scale, capturing some of the elements that happened at such times. When an extinction event occurred, the music becomes darker, frenetic, heavier, and perverse. Knowing how fragile humankind is on a planetary scale is overwhelming, just as some thoughts about our own existence might be. The music here certainly conveys such feelings, wrapping the listener in the unmistakable sensation of beholding the events. When things turn calmer, the soundscape becomes softer, contained, and the rhythm slows considerably, just as it happens in “Oligocene”, which serves as a transitional piece to the Cenozoic period of the album. 

The richness of “Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic” is endless. Every listen comes with a new discovery, whether it is uncovering some musical layers unheard at first time or understanding in a better way the concept resulted from the similarities between the philosophical perspectives considered and the different geological periods. Overall, The Ocean’s new album is the testimony of a band pushing the envelope of the genre, while restlessly evolving in terms of innovation, cleverness, and dazzling musicianship

Released by: Pelagic Records
Released Date: September 25th, 2020
Genre: Progressive, Post-Metal

Musicians:

  • Robin Staps / Guitar
  • Loïc Rossetti / Vocals 
  • Paul Seidel / Drums 
  • Mattias Hägerstrand / Bass 
  • David Ramis Åhfeldt  / Guitar 
  • Peter Voigtmann / Keys

“Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic” track-listing:

  1. Triassic
  2. Jurassic | Cretaceous
  3. Palaeocene
  4. Eocene
  5. Oligocene
  6. Miocene | Pliocene
  7. Pleistocene
  8. Holocene

9.1 Excellent

With “Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic”, The Ocean´s delivers an astonishing and ambitious record that concludes the Phanerozoic journey brilliantly. After eight studio albums, it is impressive how The Ocean amazes with innovative, unexpected, and daring musical turns that wraps the creative blend between a paleontology concept and overwhelming philosophical perspectives.

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9
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