No sleeping on the high seas for this band! Following some personnel changes since their last album, Oceans of Slumber have ridden their good ship to navigate the waves of what the world has recently thrown at us and delivered a leviathan of an eponymous album.
Dobber Beverley, the backbone of the operation, is equally at home blasting out earth-shattering drum rolls as he is composing sensitive Chopin-Esque piano compositions. Cammie Gilbert, like some celestial Queen of the Damned, delivers vocals that put her up at the very top with her female contemporaries. Matt V Aleman (keyboards), Semir Ozerkman (bass/vocals), Jessie Santos (guitar), and Alexander Lucan (guitar/vocals) make up the rest of the crew of the Houston-based band I have supported and admired for quite some time.
I make no apologies in admitting I am an ardent fan of this doom-laden Progressive outfit who are on the ascent. Having been lucky enough to witness them live before a virus threw a mighty spanner in the works for performing artists, I always felt this band was something special: be it their willingness to appreciate so many genres of music, or their ability to write and produce such mesmerizing compositions. They have been teetering on the edge of hitting it big within the mainstream rock and metal fraternity for some time now, in this their fourth album it looks like they will receive the praise they truly deserve.
Following the debut ‘Aetherial’ in 2013, Cammie joined on vocals for the ‘Blue’ EP in 2015. A year later the long-player ‘Winter’ arrived with a stunning version of the Moody Blues’ ‘Nights in White Satin’ and a collection of songs which would provide the blueprint for what was to come. ‘The Banished Heart’ in 2018 was a majestic opus that should have grown the band’s profile considerably. Their patience and talent fully tested, they now deliver their self-titled fourth album which will undoubtedly elevate them to new heights. Reactions to the singles so far fill me with encouragement that this band is finally getting the acclaim they deserve.
Despite a global pandemic and the woes of inequality still clearly existent in our world, here is a record that reflects our times so sonically while transferring us to other places, above and below the planet. Beauty and brutal truths purvey throughout the very sinews of each song. Blast beats and heavy vocals collide with melody and melancholy to produce a stunning piece of work.
The journey begins with ‘Soundtrack to My Last Day’, an irony not lost on how many of us and how we must have felt over the last strange months. It’s a formidable opener combining the band’s trademark of Cammie’s strong vocals, doom metal riffs and breaks delivered with complexity and precision.
‘Pray for Fire’ has an infectious melody and serene quality before suddenly changing gear and a declaration “You left me in the darkness…”, a searing guitar solo explodes and builds into a crescendo that leaves us feeling we have just listened to a full concerto in mere minutes. ‘A Return to Earth Below’ brings the listener back into focus with a chorus of sublime beauty reminiscent of ‘The Banished Heart’ title track, cleverly weaving in and out on the wave of Cammie’s all-conquering voice.
Already a contender for best song title of the year, the album rolls from the ghostlike instrumental ‘Imperfect Divinity’ into ‘The Abandoned Fathomless Creation’. Brutally delivered growls before the Queen of the Damned takes the reins, drum rolls from hell and a mighty wrestle of vocals take us into a pure metal breakdown.
The bell tolls on the opening of ‘To the Sea’ and the sirens are truly pulling us into the heart of the ocean, one that sonically undulates and writhes under expert musicianship. Guest vocalist Mick Moss of Antimatter joins the proceedings and perfectly complements Cammie’s vocals on the ‘Colors of Grace’, the track that has blown away my ‘non-metal’ friends! I will let you draw your own conclusions from that, but to me, it demonstrates the quality of songwriting which can connect with a broad church.
Following on nicely, the colored theme continues into ‘I Mourn These Yellowed Leaves’. The elements of doom and sorrow are never far from the heart of these songs, yet there always remains a sense of hope in these dramatic musical landscapes as the closing piano paints a moving picture of rolling autumn leaves. The piano-scape continues into ‘September (Those who Come Before)’ with the delicate melodies lending a nod to the likes of Max Richter and Ludovico Einaudi, which suggests the quality prevalent here.
The momentous journey continues into the earth-battering ‘Total Failure Apparatus’ where we are once again transferred from the sublime of the previous track into an unrelenting powerful force, certainly one for the mosh pit revelers, should we return to such taken-for-granted times. ‘The Red Flower’ looms into one’s senses like a lumbering spectral entity, stuttered beats and organ bring the album to a stunning climax…. but not quite. The curtain falls after a stunning version of Type O Negative’s ‘Wolf Moon’ (including Zoanthropic paranoia) a fitting conclusion to what I previously claimed to be a monster of an album.
In these strange times, it’s encouraging to know that the spirit of creativity is alive and well. Let’s support and cherish these musicians and live performers, you would be doing your ears a massive favor if you start here…and just buy the album. My only apology is that once you have this, you will not suffice without their all.
“Oceans Of Slumber” is available September 4th, 2020 through Century Media. Order now: https://OceansOfSlumber.lnk.to/Oceans…
Review – Dave Blizzard Shaw