Oceans of Slumber – Winter
While I’m immersing myself more and more in the wonders that are the new progressive metal movement with bands like Leprous, Haken, TesseracT and Hypno5e to name but a few (or the Australian spearheads of Voyager, Caligula’s Horse and Chaos Divine), feeling more and more detached from the old school rock and metal roots, along comes this Texan powerhouse out of the blue and tears down all prejudices I might have had. Old school does not necessarily equal outdated. At least when you’re mixing the cocktail like nobody else did before. And that Oceans of Slumber are doing – and more. Take the best from doom, black, death and classic heavy metal, fuse it with good old classic rock, southern blues and add a fair dose of jazz and classical. Cook (read: record) it with a bunch of extremely skillful players, who never miss the heart, soul and emotions in all the technicality. And you might get a slight idea what Oceans of Slumber’s “Winter” is all about.
It is their second full length album already, but the first one featuring the outstanding lead vocals of Cammie Gilbert. The band from Houston already put out an EP following Cammie‘s inclusion in 2015, consisting mostly of cover version from bands as diverse as Candlemass, Led Zeppelin, Emperor and Pink Floyd. But these four bands are actually a good indication of what Oceans of Slumber are capable of merging into one coherent sound.
The opening title track is covering already the whole aforementioned spectrum. Cammie‘s dark and evocative timbre of clean vocals create some thrilling and chilling dynamics juxtaposed with the diverse harsh vocals provided by the string section. And despite clocking in at just short of eight minutes, it flies by in no time and leaves you craving for more. And luckily there is much more to come. Hard on its heels follows the dark ‘Devout’, transforming seamlessly from a doomy beginning to insane high speed blastbeats and culminating in a grandiose guitar solo. Their subsequent take on The Moody Blues’ ‘Nights in White Satin’ could quite likely divide music enthusiasts, as the blastbeat guitar solo section could be considered as heresy by some. But seriously, it just works so well that I can’t help but love it. Closing off Side A (yes, I discovered it on vinyl) is a beautiful, simple ‘Lullaby’. A melody Cammie’s family passed down through generations, highlighting her gorgeous voice and Bass player Keegan Kelly providing some atmospheric flageolets.
After the short acoustic intro ‘Laid to Rest’, the relatively straight forward ‘Suffer the Last Bridge’ gives more to feast upon for people not too fond of extreme vocals. But the biggest melodies are yet to come. Both ‘Sunlight’ and ‘Turpentine’ feature melodies galore and, together with the short interlude ‘Good Life’, provide a welcome rest as far as ‘extremeness’ is concerned before what is to come with the roller coaster ride that is ‘Apologue’. After a heavy and desolately dark start, it is spiralling out of control with extreme vocals, blastbeasts, black metal riffing and high speed guitar licks bulldozing their way over the listener. And if that wasn’t enough, they resolve into an epic ending evoking a majestic darkness not unlike Triptykon. Excuse my french, but what a tour de force par excellence!
Now if that has not left you exhausted, after an atmospheric build up with the interlude ‘This Road’, there is still an epic, symphonic doom monster coming with ‘…This Road’. A supreme arc of suspense leads us to one of the best Doom Metal riffs in a long time and Cammie once again gives her very soul into the heartfelt and spine tingling vocals. Just in case you hadn’t noticed by now, “Winter” is oozing and breathing pure and raw emotions from start to finish. And, if that is still not enough for you,let me assure you, the musicianship is top notch, if not breathtaking throughout. Anthony Contreras and Sean Gary are both highly skilled guitar players, stimulating each other to new musical heights with every riff, lick and solo. And then there is drummer Dobber Beverly, the secret mastermind with some insane chops on display. His drumming is all over the place, yet never taking the focus away from the song, never pushing himself into the spotlight. Except for the last track, but ‘Grace’ is a beautiful piano improvisation, working perfectly as an album closer.
“Winter” is as immensely diverse as it’s inherently consistent. A stunning accomplishment and the most exciting new discovery I made in 2016.