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Oceans of Slumber, hailing from Houston, Texas, formed just five years ago, but are already making waves within the scene. And judging by the quite wondrous, often sublime, emotionally profound soundscapes conveyed through their music, it's quite a vast ocean within which they're exercising their artistic splendour. Frontwoman Cammie Gilbert, who joined the band after the 2013 release of their debut album, 'Aetherial', is quoted in press blurb as describing their stance as: "Take the ‘70s atmosphere, blues, and psychedelia, the ‘80s electronics and avant-garde rock, ‘90s metal, groove, and sludge, and update that with our current millennium’s vicious black/death/doom and love affair with dark fusion and soundscapes." Sounds a bit all over the place, no? Not at all, albeit that's a fairly accurate description of Oceans of Slumber's music on this, their sophomore full-length, 'Winter'. Quite remarkably, this bunch of Texans manage to fuse a gamut of heterogeneous styles into a coherent whole that, combined, has carved a distinct niche within the metal genre. Sure, you could make some tenuous comparisons to other bands as there are discernible influences throughout, but this lot have managed to mask their diversity through not only a seamless blend of their creative inspirations, but also through some seriously great songwriting. Intelligible and euphonic diversity would perhaps be the best way of describing it. It serves as a fine example of just how fresh music can sound when you don't restrict yourselves to delimiting genre parameters.

Oceans of Slumber paint their sonic canvas with an atmospherically rich blend of layers where, sometimes, clean guitar and keyboards are overlaid with distorted riffage, accompanied by a truly astonishing rhythm section where bass and drums add so much more to the overall mood of the music. Dobber Beverly's fills are simply magnificent, as is his overall performance. Other times, the musicians let rip in bursts of sonic aggression, yet never misplaced within each composition; this is not aimless aggressive playing but, instead, feels and sounds like part of the natural flow of where songs take you on the journey you embark upon through the listening experience. And that's the essence at the very core of 'Winter' in its entirety - it really does feel like being taken on a journey. One that's often steeped in melancholy, but also with varying divergences from that central mood. 'Suffer the Last Bridge', for example, conveys a degree of optimism in its overall dynamic, albeit laced with melancholic sways. And the general affect that overarches the whole album is a fully immersive one, where the music's awash with so many emotions, and emotional depth, that it often feels like you're blissfully floating in their limitless ocean of creativity. Short instrumental tracks are introduced into proceedings - 'Laid to Rest' and 'Good Life' - which kind of serve as bridging pieces to the main songs; intrinsically built into the emotional ride. And closing keyboard piece, 'Grace', feels like a tranquil and apt closure on the whole journey.

Vocally, the album's also a winner. The sultry, seductive tones of Gilbert's voice, and the sublime melodies she weaves through the instrumentations are to melt for. To label her singing as captivating would not fully convey just how awe-inspiring and emotionally enthralling her voice actually is. The music itself is already loaded with so much affective depth, but Gilbert manages to heighten the emotions in each song's instrumentation with a truly mesmerising grip. Then there are the death voices sporadically brought into some of the songs, courtesy of guitarists Anthony Contreras and Sean Gary, plus bassist Keegan Kelly, who articulate some effective low register growls, along with high screams and mid-range grunting. Each voice works a treat, is well posited, and complements Gilbert's voice well, and all executed with a gutsy sophistication.

The merits of 'Winter' are wide ranging, as will be its appeal. Oceans of Slumber, whether you regard them as a progressive band or not (and they're certainly progressive in a genuine, not generic, sense), have created a masterpiece here, and one that's undeniably innovative in its own terms. But we're talking about a refined innovation in both their songwriting and its realisation, through some classy performances by six musicians who sound like they belong together, such is the how they combine their instruments and voices in such a natural way. The production's magnificent; the mix perfect; the songwriting first class; the performances simply stunning... there's so much to adore about this band and their second outing. Even the cheeky cover of The Moody Blues' 'Nights in White Satin' they tackle is phenomenal, full of atmospheric lushness before exploding into a crescendo of heaviness midway through (blast beats included... yep, The Moody Blues' classic lends itself to reinvention in this manner remarkably well!). Right, I shall stop rambling now... all go and check out 'Winter' right away.
Century Media
Review by Mark Holmes
4th March 2016
1) Winter; 2) Devout
3) Nights in White Satin
4) Lullaby; 5) Laid to Rest
6) Suffer the Last Bridge
7) Good Life; 8) Sunlight
9) Turpentine; 10) Apologue
11) How Tall the Trees
12) ...This Road
13) Grace
"...judging by the quite wondrous, often sublime, emotionally profound soundscapes conveyed through their music, it's quite a vast ocean within which they're exercising their artistic splendour."