I have nothing but adoration for The Ocean. Through random searchings of the internet when I was younger, I found Precambrian around 2007 – shortly after I started getting into post-metal and other weird stuff like that. Six years and two albums later, the collective is now a cohesive full band. But enough about the past – Pelagial is an odd duck in their odd duck collection. There’s both an instrumental and vocal record here. It’s the only record that doesn’t come with a totally different companion album that the previous releases did (the instrumental/vocal doesn’t count for this purpose). But is it any good? I’d call it their best release yet.
One of the things I adored about the record is how piano driven it is. The piano meanders in and out, providing both melody and harmony as necessary. I feel as if it’s starting to make a comeback in progressive music and I’m not complaining. Probably my favorite use of it is in the Hadopelagic series: the piano played up and down in the background works so well with the jamming of the instruments. It sounds incredibly dark as well. Just…perfect. I’d also like to note that the use of other instruments is increased from the previous two records. If I had to compare it to their other work (which is kind of unfair considering how unique this record is) I’d say it’s closer to Precambrian’s second disc with more melody.
Now, this album is unique in The Ocean‘s catalog in that there isn’t an analogue to it. Where previous records have a second half to it (Precambrian‘s two sides, Fluxion/Aeolian, Precambrian‘s two discs, Heliocentric/Anthropocentric), Pelagial stands totally on its own. Now, to tell a story about a descent into the ocean is epic as it is. However, it does it masterfully. The first parts of the record tend to rely on using major scales. It sounds more uplifting. However, the further into the record you go, it gets darker. Slower. I must also note the Tool influences. Bathypelagic sounds like it fits in Tool‘s Lateralus record, and this most certainly isn’t a bad thing.
Now, the question remains: there’s both an instrumental record and one with vocals: which is better? I’m biased to say the one with vocals is better solely because I have been singing for over a decade, but that would just be egotistical. Honestly, both are fantastic. I enjoy the story the vocals tell, as well as the almost jazzy feel behind them. Some songs do end awkwardly – that’s a consequence of writing vocals for an album that wasn’t intended to have vocals on it to begin with. The instrumental lets you hear nuances in the music that you wouldn’t hear before that make you feel more like you’re sinking into the ocean.
Overall, you need to buy this record. Like, now. This band has crafted a record that is both stringent to the principles that The Ocean hold for fantastic music and it’s also accessible to a lot more people. I actually think that the Summer Slaughter crowd is going to enjoy this. This band has yet another excellent addition to their library of tunes. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
I had the privilege of interviewing Robin Staps, the mastermind of The Ocean, on the record. We discussed touring in the US, his interest in philosophy, and many other topics. The interview is below.
2. Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny
3. Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses
4. Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams
5. Bathyalpelagic III: Disequilibrated
6. Abyssopelagic I: Boundless Vasts
7. Abyssopelagic II: Signals of Anxiety
8. Hadopelagic I: Omen of the Deep
9. Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe
10. Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance
11. Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes
Genre: Post/Progressive Metal
Record Label: Metal Blade Records
Playing Time: 53 minutes for both discs