Released: Apr 26, 2013
Genre: Post-Metal, Progressive Metal
Label: Metal Blade Records
Number Of Tracks: 11
"Pelagial" sits comfortably alongside the other releases of a half-decent, above average band who haven't quite met their ambitions. Not yet.
UG Team, on may 02, 2013 5 of 30 people found this review helpful
Sound: Often hailed as leaders in "post-metal", that most poorly defined and frequently discussed of styles, arty Germans The Ocean are quite keen on big projects and ambitious concept albums. "Pelagial" joins the ranks as a journey through the layers of the ocean the music getting darker and murkier as we adventure down to the bottom. Cool, huh? They have a track record of forging interesting ideas out of really boring premises - see previous releases "Anthropocentric" (the movement of the planets) and "Precambrian" (rocks) and this is arguably the most fully realised concept yet. In this case the "light" means noodling, drum fills and schizophrenic structuring in the style of tourmates Between The Buried And Me, chopping and changing almost at random and commanding a great deal of attention in the process. It seems silly to call something so manic, aggressive and technically demanding as "light" but tightly wound as these sections are they seem a little thin on meaningful content.
It's only as we get deeper that this album starts to show its better self. "Abyssopelagic" widens the scope considerably with the first half's boldly melodic lead guitar and the second's delicate stretching of a theme and after that we get to what The Ocean do best: thick, bassy riffing with more gusto than BTBAM and less pretence than Isis or their other supposed contemporaries. Some of the closing moments of "Benthic: The Origin Of Our Wishes", where the drop-tuned thunder is compounded by the lead work from earlier, are absolutely divine. // 7
Lyrics: The album was originally intended to be instrumental. Vocalist Loc Rossetti was battling health problems during production and the band originally saw the concept as one that ought to be wordless - they didn't want to "sing about battles between sperm whales and giant squids", as guitarist Robin Stap eloquently put it. But they found a way to make it work, and Rossetti contributes his fair share across the album. His melodic wail is perhaps not so cerebral as everything else that's going on but that aids accessibility and without his contribution some of the drama would be lost in translation see "Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish In Dreams". The lyrics themselves are stuffy as ever and it would take either a science PhD or a helpfully-worded press release to decipher them. Unfortunately neither will be readily available to the majority of listeners.
The instrumental disc is being released alongside the final version, and allows passionate fans to hear in more detail some of the performance and production tricks that kept the wheels turning. It is, however, rather boring if you're not interested in the technical aspects. // 6
Overall Impression: The downward movement, from fresh and airy to tough and uncompromising, is intriguing to track but with the strongest material almost entirely saved for the end, it is curious that The Ocean chose to go from top to bottom here, rather than starting in darkness and eventually bursting forth into fresh air. That could have helped "Pelagial" hit the next level and move well beyond any of their previous material, but as is, it sits comfortably alongside the other releases of a half-decent, above average band who haven't quite met their ambitions. Not yet.
Geldin, on may 17, 2013 2 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: The Ocean is something of a controversial band in the post- and progressive metal. Never fitting entirely comfortably in either genre but instead forging a sound somewhere between, The Ocean have made a name for themselves as forward-thinking musicians with a flair for the (melo?)dramatic.
"Pelagial" opens with familiar elements - a soft piano melody, orchestral strings, and clean guitars leading the ear into the first infant phrases of the record. Though, this might be the best opening passage The Ocean has put to tape in their career and a not-so-subtle reminder to the listener that he is fit to descend into the depths of the ocean beneath, this is nothing out of the normal for The Ocean. Indeed, "nothing unusual" seems to be the theme of this record.
While The Ocean do indeed have progressive leanings, they are not re-inventing the wheel on "Pelagial." Almost everything they do musically has been done before, but that isn't to say that is doesn't work here. In fact, the only really new element is the dancing lead guitar that appears sporadically throughout the record. As a whole, this record is the logical next step from "Heliocentric" and "Anthropocentric." // 8
Lyrics: Although every mention of this album has made sure to remind me that this was originally written as an instrumental record, I cannot help but think that such a release would have been a tremendous mistake. As of "Pelagial," Loic Rossetti has truly come into his own as a vocalist and to hear the instrumental version of this record (found on Disc 2) is to hear a record incomplete.
The lyrics take influence from Andrei Tarkovsky's "Stalker," which emphasizes themes of personal exploration and isolation, which are presented with no shortage on "Pelagial." I have always felt that The Ocean's weakest point was their lyrics, though, and this record is no different. Although Rossetti's singing and screaming are as powerful as ever, the effect is dampened by the occasional poor turn of phrase. // 7
Overall Impression: Compared to earlier albums, it is hard to say how exactly "Pelagial" compares. It is clearly leaps and bounds ahead of Heliocentric, the album with which it shares the most similarities, but it is so different from their earlier material that comparison becomes less viable. There is no doubt the "Pelagial" is a strong record, however, certainly the since "Precambrian."
The thing with "Pelagial" is that it must be heard in its entirety. There is no one track that stands out as a centerpiece like "Origin Of Species"/"Origin Of God" did on <"b>Heliocentric." Instead, this is a record whose strength lies in its consistency and continuity. There are indeed sections that stick out (the ending of "Mesopelagic," the introduction of "Bathypelagic II," and the introduction of "Demersal" come to mind), no one song is so strong that the record is lopsided for its inclusion.
This record is not for fans of The Ocean Collective. It has neither the Metallica edge of "Aeolian" nor the sweeping orchestrations of "Fluxeon" or "Precambrian." This is an album for fans of Between The Buried And Me moonlighting as post-metal fans. This album stands out as the band's strongest effort in more than half a decade, but it is not a return to "Precambrian"'s sound. Taken on its own merit, however, it is a powerful and well-structured record. Album of the Year? It is far to soon to make that call so soon after its release, but "Pelagial" could well be a strong contender. // 8