Saturday, March 10, 2018

Oceans of Slumber - The Banished Heart (2018)

With their sophomore effort "Winter", Oceans of Slumber became a nice little darling in 2016 for most metal lovers, including myself, falling instantly in love with the band's unique version of extreme progressive music. However, I felt that the band had more to give, that we only got a small taste of their true potential on "Winter". So when the band unveiled their new release "The Banished Heart", I flung myself to my Spotify account, and downloaded that shit immediately. Let us hope I did not jump the shark (or however you use that saying).

Well, it did not take very long until I understood that the band had indeed taken their music to the next level. The opening song "The Decay of Disregard" is just a beautiful 9 minute monster that takes its time to develop, but everything is just so carefully placed to get out maximum effect. Unfortunately, my brain is kind of stupid, so it ruined the song by taking the line "It fuels a nightmare" and twisting it into "Feelings of nutmeg". I still love it, but cannot listen to it without singing along with my own lyrics, it is completely engraved in my head. It does make me wonder though, can nutmeg have feelings? Probably not.

Fortunately, my brain was kind enough to not ruin anymore songs, and thank god for that, because this whole album is filled with tracks that have that perfect mix of beauty and darkness, and that is balanced perfectly by singer Cammie Gilbert. Her vocals are so incredibly precise in every single syllable, hitting the right spot every time to give the already atmospheric music another level of emotion. And also thanks from really solid instrumentation work from the remaining five members of the band, we get a chemistry that is simply astonishing.

Sound wise, the band is definitely in a league of their own, but they do have a fair bunch of visible influences on their sleeves. The bands that first comes to my mind is Novembers Doom and Paradise Lost, mostly because they also have a keen sense of getting some grand emotions out of the music. There is also some The Project Hate MCMXCIX and Ne Oblivscaris to be found here, with the intense brutality, complex song structures, and mix of beautiful and crushing harsh vocals, which is best displayed in the brilliant and epic "At Dawn".

It is certainly apparent that the band has done its homework, because "The Banished Heart" is much more consistent than "Winter", with each one of the eleven songs having a purpose of being there. The title track is an emotional power house that just gets bigger and bigger the more we get into the song, while the double sandwich "Etiolation" and "A Path To Broken Stars" are technical masterclasses by guitarists Sean Gary and Anthony Contreras, with drummer Dobber Beverly (nice name dude) laying down some sweet fills in the background. Even the distant closer "Wayfaring Stranger" is very nice, with its mellow atmosphere and naked instrumentation, it is just so god damn impressive.

There is very little to dislike about this album, maybe it is a tad bit too long, and some more vibrant diversity could have been needed, but "The Banished Heart" is still a fantastic record from start to finish. It got it all, brutality, melodies, calm moments, fast moments, it just delivers a smorgasbord of progressive technicality that a prog lover can sit around for hours and stuff themselves silly. Oceans of Slumber is certainly not slumbering anymore, they are awake, and they are delivering some magnificent metal to the people, with some delicious nutmeg sprinkled in for some extra flavour.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Banished Heart, The Decay of Disregard, At Dawn, Etiolation

Rating: 9/10 Wayfaring Strangers

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