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Thursday, December 30, 2010

CD Review: The Ocean - Anthropocentric

The Ocean - Anthropocentric
2010 Metal Blade Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Do you know what The Ocean's greatest talent is? It's the fact they're on their sixth official album (including their double platter, Precambrian) and even at this point, it's damned near futile to come up with a concrete answer to the question, "How would you describe this band?"

If you've been following Robin Staps and his teeming ensemble of interchangeable musicians (all-told nearly 40) comprising The Ocean Collective (the group's original name), the phrases "math metal," "expressionistic doom" and "post metal" always come up.

Yes, The Ocean admits their affinity for Neurosis and they still harbor a brackish doom inlet to much of their ebb-crashing compositions. What's separated The Ocean from most of their peers and brought upon them a beacon light of interest is their willingness to texture and their wherewithal to sculpt both carefully and recklessly with progressive--sometimes soft--measures. Jazz tones, chamber sweeps and other modes of non-metal have lavished The Ocean's work into 2010. Well-evident all over their adventurous Heliocentric album released earlier this year.

The initial announcement of The Ocean unleashing two individual projects in the same year hinted at a bonding theme between Heliocentric and their latest offering Anthropocentric. That lock has to do with a musical exploration of Christianity from two dichotomous viewpoints. Heliocentric lyrically posited the inevitable twisting and molding of conventional Christian belief in light of the advent of both Darwinism and the topical view that the sun was the center of spirituality.

Meanwhile, Anthropocentric takes both an earthbound and astral stance in communing terra firma with the universe as a conjoined hub from which Creationism can be validated. While The Ocean takes little stance of its own on both of these albums, they have have written a pair of intellectually-stimulating records which are varied in audile tone.

Heliocentric is perhaps the more daring album from a songwriting perspective since The Ocean incorporates far more diverse tactics ranging from fusion to jagged rock amidst its loud complexities. By contrast, Anthropocentric rattles the bars and amps things back up to the decibel output of Fluxion and Aeolian, though with random interludes of quietude. They come courtesy of the whispery instrumental "Willie Zum Antergang" and the electro hallucinations and fugue-oriented violin slashes agitating "The Grand Inquisitor III: Tiny Grain of Faith."

Mostly, Anthropocentric is fierce, brutal and sometimes ugly, though always engaging. Instead of dangling a few fish hooks to drag in their listeners and spill religious rhetoric into their ears, The Ocean pummels its audience into submission with the title track, "She Was the Universe" and "The Grand Inquisitor II: Roots & Locusts." The latter tune is especially detailed and organic despite its initial velocity and terrifying hostility. "Roots & Locusts" turns a dime on itself as Loic Rossetti (who was masterful all over Heliocentric) about-faces from growl motifs to a soul cage of effervesence in response to the track's lofty choruses. It's an airbourne swirl guaranteed to steal one's breath away in the face of deliberate aggression on the remaining parts.

The prog-heavy "Heaven TB" likewise goes for the jugular with rampaging speed and far-from-timid signature rolls; its bravado is administered by its crafty jet-skid-rat-a-tat rhythm punches. Keep on your toes for delicately-planted harmonies amongst the sleek tempos which range from mosh to march to grind.

"Heaven TB" is just about too much to consume in one sitting, as is the entire album. If the verbiage of Anthropocentric isn't enough to digest alone, the combined bludgeoning and caressing on this album will require a break then a return. Heliocentric is compelling upon immediate contact, while its companion requires a deeper study, and an ear that digs and revels in exploration. Heliocentric is largely well-refined ear candy for the metal hip, while Anthropocentric is the voluminous stepsister demanding more attention and interaction from its consumer. Even when throwing in a palatable ballad "The Almightiness Contradiction" at the end to settle the nerves of such note-heaping onslaughts, The Ocean stamps their sugary finale with a resolute question mark for their listeners. No easy way out with this band.

Is there something beyond the world we know, The Ocean asks? The answer depends on your viewpoint, but assuredly, The Ocean has created a rousing and often ear-crushing sense of metallic transcendentalism to help you on your journey towards the truth, whatever that may be... Without question, this is one of the most ingenious and artistic metal units on the scene today.

Rating: ****

1 comment:

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