The Ocean: Pelagial

Germany’s psychonauts reach new depths

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The Ocean’s discography is littered with comprehensive and dense works that, in addition to offering a metallic abundance of holistic and epic proportions, generate controversy. This is because certain segments of listeners get cheesed off before they get a chance to settle in and absorb just what the hell is going on.

At some point, due in large part to the band’s breadth of sound offering something for most, haters, detractors and defamers become former haters, detractors and defamers and start shooting claims from their pieholes about how they’ve been listening to The Ocean since back in the days they referred to themselves as The Ocean Collective (or even their previous guise, the ridiculously named Mike Beef And The Fake Meaters), casually omitting how long it actually took for them to finally understand, let alone enjoy, the band.

The Teutonic-Swiss combination are meticulous and thorough in all aspects of their presentation – from their customary offering of double albums draped in layers of conceptual content and insanely beautiful packaging designs to the no-holds-barred music that grinds the gears of so-called progressive metal fans more in step with sweep-picked flash and rudiments lifted from Dream Theater’s handbook instead of songs, substance and soul. Via a constant diet of evolution and daring, The Ocean are catapulting metal into the future, whether they’re doing it intentionally or by simply stepping out of today’s lockstep catering to quick fixes.

Originally, Pelagial was recorded instrumentally when frontman Loïc Rossetti was suffering from tour-induced vocal exhaustion. Hence, the album appears here in two forms: its original instrumental and the full program with vocals included and surprise, surprise, the album works well in both formats. Conceptually, it’s reminiscent of James Cameron’s underwater classic The Abyss – though, without the please-love-me-again-and-take-me-back subplot and Chris Elliot appearances – and the music takes you on a journey from gentle, floating tranquillity with tracks like the lilting piano intro of Epipelagic and Abyssopeliagic II: Signals Of Anxiety to the sensation of being crushed by immense pressure/heaviness (Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibriated).

Listeners are teased by cogent nudges into the unknown (Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses, Mesopelagic: Into The Uncanny) and surrounded by mystery and inky darkness (Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe). For a guy who, a year ago, thought he might never be able to speak again, let alone sing, Loïc Rossetti puts in a masterful performance throughout Pelagial’s 50-plus minutes where a tremendous piece of music draws from alt-rock, math-metal, sludge, jangly shoegaze and obscure 60s and 70s rock and contextual self-references. _ _

Pelagial shifts and swings between moods, colours, tempos and bombast like a classical piece, but there’s also a cohesive restraint at work. Despite their exploration, they don’t go the way of, say, early Mr Bungle or Between The Buried And Me, stitching together different snippets from disparate genres. For all their expansiveness The Ocean sound like The Ocean from beginning to end, and make it safe for you to dive deep into their watery beast.