While it’s good to hear more from Oceans and their Hell is Where the Heart Is project, the full album version is certainly interesting, but does not always live up to the potential of the previous EP I’ve reviewed.
This “new” album consists in fact of all the songs from the Hell is Where the Heart Is EPs, I to III. I’ve already reviewed the first four, but what do the others sound like? As usual, Oceans love using spoken word intros, and a sort of nu metal/metalcore sound with a mixture of singing and screaming. But some problems are made immediately apparent with the sixth track, “Home”. The song is just too soft compared to the previous ones, with a rather light melody and a rather catchy, clean singing delivery, far from the harrowing and tortured singing of “Skin” and “The Awakening”. And yet, it’s saved from being completely worthless, and completely un-Oceans-like, by the more subdued, but still obvious sense of sorrow, and the desperate need to find a home in the vocals. Likewise, “I Want to Be Whole Again” has a lighter melody, and mostly melancholic, sorrowful singing, with only a few screams. “If There’s a God She Has Abandoned Us” even starts like a piano ballad, and keeps a melancholic tone after adding the guitars.
This one is probably the best of the softer songs, but I’m not sure the others could ever make the same visceral impact as Oceans’s previous songs. However, we go back to the Oceans I know with “Living = Dying”, which is so much heavier that it causes a real whiplash when you hear it right after “Whole Again”. I think it’s also more interesting musically, with its mixture of death growls, heavy riffs, clean singing and occasional Jonathan Davis impressions, and numerous, not repetitive verses. It ends on a scream of “Nothing’s gonna be the same!”, letting us appreciate all the effort that the singer puts into his vocals. His growls are even more impressive, louder and snarlier in “I Sing Alone”. He’s better when he goes all the way.
But what about the very hyped title track, which was the title of the three EPs that the album compiles? This one is probably the most ambitious, and the one that best fulfills the promise of the first EP. It starts heavy and sinister, first with sinister keys then heavy guitars, alternating between low growls, high screams, speaking, angry speaking turning to screaming, anguished moaning and finally singing, softer but no less melancholic, ending the album on a wistful note. If you can imagine that, it sounds like Bloodbath turning into Korn, then into Soilwork, but it’s still its own thing, and a completely unique take on each style. It also perfectly embodies the album’s message that hell is where the heart is, and I consider that a success if your title track is one of the best songs on the album.
Overall, I have mixed feelings on this album. There’s a lot of good on it, but the contrast between the first songs, the middle songs and the last ones, is too jarring. The middle songs are also a little too generic, and don’t hit as hard as the first and last ones. However, the last ones are pretty good, because they play around with all of Oceans’ inspirations. Their style is pretty interesting, they have an identity of their own and when they’re actually trying, their music can stir up all sorts of emotions in the listeners, it’s heart-wrenching in a good way. It’s just a shame that on this album, they’re not always trying. This album wasn’t completely bad, but it wasn’t great either.
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