The Ocean - _Pelagial_
(Metal Blade, 2013)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (9 out of 10)
In his review of their 2010 album duet _Heliocentric_ and _Anthropocentric_, our own Pedro Azevedo claimed that The Ocean would remain an interesting act to follow in the future, and darn it he got that one right. A little less than a year ago, details started emerging on the Internet regarding a new album from The Ocean. Little by little, the band's mastermind, Robin Staps, revealed that the new album _Pelagial_ was going to be conceptually based around the actual ocean and its layers, with the intention of relating them to the human mind and consciousness. An ambitious project as usual from Mr. Staps, but there's an added trick to _Pelagial_. The entire album, which is fifty-three minutes long, is available in an instrumental format as a second disc, effectively making _Pelagial_ yet another double disc release by The Ocean. Now isn't that interesting?

The fact that the album is available as an instrumental shouldn't be entirely dismissed. This allows the music to shine through even more than on the version with vocals. This doesn't mean that the vocals are so far in the forefront that they actually suffocate the music; far from it. The instrumental version is naturally breathes more freely due to the absence of the vocals that tie things up. It does however come to its own very nicely without the vocals, and that's why _Pelagial_ is such an impressive effort.

Musically speaking, Robin Staps has always led The Ocean to tread the treacherous lines between progressive and post-metal while frequently shelling out technical segments to mix things up even more. This reached its peak on the massive _Precambrian_ and it's still there on _Pelagial_. The names of the eleven tracks come from the different layers of the ocean, and they begin at elevation zero with "Epipelagic", which is just an introductory track with the sound of bubbles as something (or someone) dives into the water. Just like any journey of exploration, it begins with a rather optimistic vibe before the reaching the darker recesses that eventually reveal the desired answers. "Mesopelagic" comes next with that initially positive-sounding vibe, but then the vicious riff and driving drum beat come in create a strong basis for the very well executed vocals.

"Bathyalpelagic", the first of three mini-series, starts with Loïc Rossetti screaming at the top of his lungs as the music becomes more dynamic and a little bit more technical. It carries the burden of self-questioning and the attempts of fighting one's demons, but as we go deeper, "we sink through boundless vasts". The two part "Abyssopelagic" goes even deeper, with the magnificent "Signals of Anxiety" creating a massively stirring turning point in the middle of the album. The last of the mini-series, "Hadopelagic", and its follow-up piece, "Demersal", see the pressure pounding even more. The drums become less about the masterful chops and more about the sheer heaviness of it all.

As the light grows dimmer and blue gives way to black, hopes of rising back to the sun become ever so slim. The second half of "Demersal" and the ending piece "Benthic" superbly doom things up and compound the pressure beyond relief. In the last few seconds of it all, the guitar wails for a bit, then there's some eerie feedback. The bubbles come back for a while... and then they stop.


(article published 23/8/2013)

1/2/2006 J Smit The Ocean: Beyond the Fathomless Depths
3/28/2011 P Azevedo The Ocean - Heliocentric / Anthropocentric
11/24/2005 J Smit 8.5 The Ocean - Aeolian
11/1/2011 D Lake The Devin Townsend Project / The Ocean / Rome Apart Ziltoid Invasion, Good Vibrations
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