Review: Oceans of Slumber “Starlight and Ash” [Century Media Records]

Review: Oceans of Slumber “Starlight and Ash” [Century Media Records]

- in Reviews

What a troubled, mystical and unclassifiable album. But there is definitely something special about its strange moods and melancholy.

It’s hard to classify in the sense that it sounds like various other acts but not completely, and it’s hard to label this as any genre in particular. The band calls their music Southern Gothic, but to me this is more a description of the melancholic, haunted and peculiar feel of the music than a genre classification. I’d describe the music as some sort of blues rock with occasional heavy metal guitars, nice melodies and a singer who sounds like a cross between a cleaner, younger blues singer, some power metal singers and other hard to classify singers like Amy Lee or Florence Welch, without being a direct sound-alike to anyone.

There is, like I said, a sense of melody to this album. The songs are easy to sing-along to, and because of their bluesy and haunted mood, they have a way of easily sticking in your mind and feeling like they have always been there. They all tend to have a similar melody and structure, which makes the album unfortunately repetitive. But that’s the only real weakness of the album, so instead, let’s describe what’s good about every song.

“The Waters Rising” establishes the album’s strange, bluesy feel, and its recurring theme of water and drowning. The song haunts you with its obsession for water. “The Lighthouse” is more like a bluesy ballad about the importance of a lighthouse to a seaside community, but through the haunting music and vocals, it feels like an incantation to the sea gods. “Here comes the Storm” has a more forceful vocal delivery, and of course, describes the narrator’s torments with storm metaphors. Focusing on forests rather than water, “Red Forest Roads” is rockier, with heavier guitars and drumming, and a nice gloomy feel. “The Hanging Tree” is softer but eerier, and creates a darker atmosphere with its breathy and mournful vocals. It’s a more nostalgic song.

“Salvation” is where the album gets a little repetitive, being a laidback but eerie rock song with a bluesy and folky feel like most of the album, but its ending with the lead singer vocalizing over backing vocals by the other band members is pretty nice. The more interesting songs are the ones where the band tries new things, such as “Star Altar”, the heaviest songs, with its heavy/doomy guitars and its witchcraft-inspired lyrics. This sounds like one of these Black Sabbath-inspired occult rock and heavy metal bands, without being a direct copy of anyone. Or the cover of “House of the Rising Sun”, which really commits to its old folk/country vibe. “Just a Day” starts like a piano ballad, before becoming the album’s second heaviest track. And for the end, we have the mysterious “The Shipbuilder’s Son”, which also sounds like a rock cover of an old folk song.

This was a strange album, but very interesting to review. It’s not exactly perfect. Like I said, it can get a little repetitive, which is a real shame for such a creative band. As you can guess from my descriptions of the music, it’s not exactly metal except for a few songs. It’s not the heaviest thing ever, and it’s hard to label as any genre in particular, so it must be listened to with an open mind. But if you want something well-made and outside the realm of metal, it would be a real shame to miss this. The songs are the definition of haunting, melancholic and troubling. From the passionate incantations of “The Lighthouse” to the magical and gloomy feel of “Star and Altar”, and the heavy and desperate feel of “Shipbuilder’s Son”, the songs all have something good to offer, and such a strange and gripping feel that you can’t help but feel an odd fascination towards them. It’s amazing how they manage to create something so peculiar and gripping by taking such varied influences and making them their own. Check this one out, for something not necessarily perfect but really special.

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