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Following their philosophical debunking of Christianity on 2010's companion albums 'Heliocentric' and 'Anthropocentric', innovative metallers The Ocean return with yet another concept piece in the form of 'Pelagial'. This will probably ring some kind of bell for aficionados of underground metal out there as one of the band's guitarists and primary songwriter, Robin Staps, runs an independent label called Pelagic Records. So what exactly is the concept? Well, quite simply, as the title suggests, the different layers of the ocean so there's some kind of alignment between band name and album theme this time around. According to press blurb, the ocean's five pelagic zones are lyrically addressed: epipelagic, mesopelagic, bathyalpelagic, abyssopelagic, and hadopelagic. By extension, musically, the different layers of The Ocean are also on show here as the band's songwriting prowess is at its most potent with tempo changes, varying time signatures, shifting moods and mellow/heavy contrapositions reflecting the journey deeper into the sea as the album progresses. This was apparently their intention and it can certainly be heard within the skilfully crafted and executed compostions - the essence of the music is that it really does feel you're being taken on a sonically affective venture. This kind of impetus is perhaps partly explicable by the fact that 'Pelagial' was originally conceived and written as an instrumental suite of music due to vocalist Loc Rossetti falling seriously ill at the start of last year coupled with Staps' initial concerns that his chosen concept would be difficult to lyricise. However, Rossetti returned to full health and thematic ideas were expanded to conceptualise the ocean's depths as analogous for different layers of the human psyche. So lyrics were eventually penned and vocals recorded. Interestingly, an instrumental version of the album is also being issued and, although it's the vocal one that has been made available for review, I can imagine that would work well on its own merits, such is the richly layered depth and changing moods of each track. Well, I say each track, but 'Pelagial' is supposed to be digested as one long 53 minute opus (and the band intend to play it in its chronological entirety at live shows). Repeated musical motifs throughout offer subtle hints as to the album's unity as do the contiguous nature of each track as one segues into the next, often with samples of underwater sounds that are sporadically introduced. And it all sounds fantastic too with a pretty spectacular mix by the ever talented Jens Bogren (who also mastered the album) - there's a lot of genuine depth in the blended layers which is vital in efficaciously conveying the concept. And, for me, it's a metaphorically clever concept. Others might find it all a tad pretentious but a genuinely intelligent set of lyrics to accompany provocative, innovative and genuinely progressive music should be applauded. Another winner from The Ocean.
Metal Blade Records
Review by Mark Holmes
30th April 2013
1) Epipelagic
2) Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny
3) Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses
4) Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams
5) Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibrated
6) Abyssopelagic I: Boundless Vasts
7) Abyssopelagic II: Signals of Anxiety
8) Hadopelagic I: Omen of the Deep
9) Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe
10) Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance
11) Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes
"Another winner from The Ocean."