The Ocean - _Heliocentric_ / _Anthropocentric_
(Metal Blade, 2010)
by: Pedro Azevedo (8.5 and 7.5 out of 10 respectively)
When German progressive / post-metal ensemble The Ocean created their two-disc magnum opus _Precambrian_ (2007), a vast number of people participated in its recording. The result of this complex effort still stands as quite possibly the pinnacle of its subgenre so far in my books, despite my belatedness in its discovery. Its two-pronged follow-up consists of _Heliocentric_ and _Anthropocentric_, two separate but thematically linked albums. They were both recorded throughout 2009 at La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland -- some 1000 metres above sea level, up in the Jura mountains. _Heliocentric_ was then released in April 2010, with _Anthropocentric_ following in November.

The lyrical concept that links the two albums is built upon a critical analysis of Christianity throughout the centuries. As their titles obviously imply, the first album is concerned with heliocentrism (the notion that the Earth revolves around a stationary Sun) and the second with anthropocentrism (Man as the center of the universe). Some may feel The Ocean's lyrics only skim the surface of complex philosophical and historical matters, while others may find their subject matter less than stimulating for not being "metal enough"; personally, I find their degree of success tends to vary significantly between tracks, but the overall result is at least well thought out and usually interesting.

Despite the changeable nature of The Ocean's studio line-up, one major novelty for these two albums concerned the arrival of new vocalist Loïc Rossetti. It remains unclear whether or not there was a causal relation between that change and the band's decision to use a vast majority of clean vocals, but that is not to say they no longer resort to a harsher approach.

This change in the vocal department may be felt more acutely in the first album, _Heliocentric_: take for instance the very tranquil and beautifully orchestrated "Ptolemy Was Wrong", and how it highlights Rossetti's singing. "Epiphany" is even more vocal driven, and likely a track that will find more detractors than most others. Overall, and despite some harsher, more rhythmic passages, _Heliocentric_ is an album that will win or lose listeners on whether they are able to connect with the melodies and musical arrangements behind each dilemma Rossetti sings about. "The Origin of Species" and its counterpart "The Origin of God" provide the major exceptions to this rule, as their main heavier sections are quite enough to make them stand out and compete with The Ocean's past work. With equally strong melodic elements, these songs seem more satisfying than the quiet ones, but the album generally remains reasonably well balanced and with enough high points to keep you listening.

_Anthropocentric_ showcases some different melodic arrangements, namely more of a tendency for clean sung choruses, which in part may be the result of a higher level of confidence between the band and their new vocalist. It also tends to have more of the heavier stuff, though it seemingly never gets quite as impressive as The Ocean can be. The nimble "The Grand Inquisitor II" does show some interesting innovations on that front, but for the most part _Anthropocentric_ fails to reap any great rewards from its considerable experimentation -- in fact, you need look no further than the next track, "The Grand Inquisitor III", for an example of such a mixed bag of ideas. There are quite a few of those sections throughout the album, and it seems hard to equate the likes of "Wille Zum Untergang" with the level of success The Ocean have been able to achieve in the past.

I was able to find significantly less remarkable moments on _Anthropocentric_ than on _Heliocentric_; and while the former is not a bad album in any way, there is little doubt in my mind when choosing between the two. Regardless of the exact success ratio of each album however, The Ocean anno 2010 have remained a very interesting act to follow, and that seems unlikely to change anytime soon.


(article published 28/3/2011)

1/2/2006 J Smit The Ocean: Beyond the Fathomless Depths
8/23/2013 A El Naby 9 The Ocean - Pelagial
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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