Oceans Of Slumber have been making pain sound exquisite since 2016’s atmospheric Winter. On that album, the Texans welcomed singer Cammie Gilbert into the fold, and began pulling away from the sporadic technicalities of their early sound, incorporating elements of goth, doom and death metal into one elegant tapestry. Cammie’s soulful vocals are the most potent weapon in their arsenal and, with that in mind, it was only a matter of time before the band made a record like this fifth effort.
Stripping away pretty much all of their grandiose artillery, this is easily the band’s most melodic, easily accessible and minimalist record to date, with Cammie front and centre as the undisputed star. And although chunky guitars roll ominously like fleeting storm clouds across the horizon on Star Altar and black metal lurks at the fringes of Red Forest Roads, the album eschews the death metal influences of old, drawing its heaviness instead from a well of emotion, inspired by the dark allure of artists like Nick Cave and Tom Waits. From Hearts Of Stone, which conjures an ornate sense of gothic Americana, to the elegant instrumentation of The Lighthouse that hangs heavy like the sweet, perfumed air of the deep South, it’s Cammie’s emotional experience (‘Dying to crawl back into the womb / Hoping that somewhere could feel like home’) that carves a path through the gloom.
Undoubtedly, some fans drawn to the doomy Salvation – which nods to both Type O Negative and Anathema, accompanied by mournful chants from band founder, drummer Dobber Beverly – will miss the sleight-of-hand brutality of their earlier material, but there’s no doubt that Starlight And Ash is the sound of a band playing to all of their strengths. This is yet another album that marks them out as one of modern metal’s most innovative operators.