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I’d rather bathe somewhere else…
I still can’t believe what this album did to me. Amidst a steady stream of writing motivation I had requested this new Oceans of Slumber album for closer inspection and it managed to totally kill of all the fun I had with the divine act of reviewing music.
Quite literally, their self-titled full-length made me drop the pencil for almost 5 months. It took a few thorough listens to superior albums from entirely different genres to start writing and actually finishing a review again – an act of liberation that gave me the room to refocus on this shiny, glossy pile of remarkable…boredom.
You know, the Oceans of Slumber member pool is populated by incredible individual talents. These guys are perfectly capable of delivering technically proficient and diverse music – ranging from somber, jazzy ambiance to crushing doom/death metal – without breaking a sweat and Cammie Gilbert is quite an amazing vocalist, standing shoulder to shoulder with the top-tier singers of her generation, impressing us with her soulful, intense performance. Their craft is contained within an amazingly transparent, crystal-clear high-fidelity production job, certainly among the finest I’ve heard thus far.
The problem with this group is that they can’t write a consistently enjoyable record to save their lives! Indeed this is not the first time they’re struggling with this, even their finest work (2016’s Winter) is far from perfect, offering a bunch of masterclass songs comfortably seated within an ocean (…) of forgettable “extreme” prog/doom metal material. Their hit/miss-ratio is devastating, my personal best-of compilation compiled off their entire body of work does barely meet the standards of a full-length CD’s run time – with four albums and an EP under their belt! People like to pick on Opeth’s discography in terms of hacked-up songwriting and crippled consistency but Akerfeld’s band feels almost Vader-esque in comparison.
One hour and eleven minutes of music! None of my favourite albums last this long because at this length it’s just incredibly difficult to deliver consistent material quality and this record is a prime example of how to kill off your listener’s attention. Cammie is the only element present that manages to catch your attention once in a while – in both good and bad ways; her range is incredible and the smoothness of her voice can be quite soothing, the recurring pain in her delivery feels believable. But she can be incredibly off-putting as well, which is not entirely her fault – it’s probably because the songwriting sucks so hard – listen to the second half of “Pray for Fire” which offers Dave Mustaine-ish spoken word mumbling over the drummer’s decision to play a completely different extreme metal track to show off his blasts.
Oceans of Slumber has three good songs. They work because either Cammie takes the lead and the band finally takes a (bit of a) backseat, thus letting her voice shine (“A Return to the Earth Below”) or when they are not constantly shifting from one forgettable riff to the next (“To the Sea”) which actually works even better when they are not playing metal at all (“September”). Everything else ranges from a slightly annoying itch at worst to sleep-inducing at best. There is no truly horrible experience to be witnessed here but sometimes I wish they’d actually wake me up with some ridiculous shit once in a while – at least that would be something worth exploring in a more detailed manner. Not even the Type O Negative cover of “Wolf Moon” tucked at the end works well because it doesn’t seem suitable for Cammie’s voice, resulting in the most phoned-in sounding performance of hers on this CD while you can almost hear the rest of the band (especially the drummer) desperately wanting to fuck it up again with misplaced blastbeats and cookie-cutter growls popping up seemingly everywhere…but this one time they have to hold back, since they actually want to remain faithful to the original. I also feel the urge to instantly skip to said original.
In reality, that is exactly what this does to me – I feel the urge to skip to a better record from better groups, one that doesn’t bore me to tears while being admittedly astounded by the actual talent present, steadily confronted with the tragic fact that their (undoubtedly) hard work never truly pays off because they always seem to be taking the wrong turns.
Release date: September 4th 2020
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