The Ocean do nothing by halves. We've been ushered through history, to a time when Copernicus' revived theory of heliocentrism was being criticised by the Church and new scientific theories were clashing with Christian belief. We've been taken through prehistory; through time periods thousands of millions of years past to when Earth was first formed. The experimental progressive German powerhouse otherwise known as The Ocean Collective are renowned for their ambitious concepts and the sheer variety that can be heard within their music, taking the listener on journeys through the orchestral, the progressive, and the crushingly heavy. By the time they released their first full album Fluxion in 2004, their identity began to take real form and the ambition of the Collective mind ploughed ever onwards; becoming known for releasing two albums as part of a single musical project, once even releasing both albums, the impressive duo of Heliocentric and Anthropocentric, in a single year.
The light is fading. Everything dissolves in blue.
With Pelagial, the ocean itself is our destination. Entering with the ambient beauty of Epipelagic, the trickle of surface water can be heard as our metaphorical submersible prepares to dive. The album's concept and tracklisting progresses in a similar style to that of 2007 release Precambrian, each track this time representing a depth zone in a body of water, a concept in itself a metaphorical journey through the subconscious mind.
Eyes in the twilight stare at us as we're going down - not alone. There is movement in these depths.
Loïc Rossetti's vocals are a clear part of The Ocean's strength, and the band's decision to include vocals at all (despite original plans for an instrumental album after Rossetti became ill) is testament to his skills. As Mesopelagic sees a shifting of his voice to complement the progression into heavier territory, he announces that from this point on there is only one direction: down.
Pressure is increasing with every meter that we sink.
The trio of songs that make up Bathyalpelagic begin to add a sense of foreboding whilst the music slowly becomes heavier, ending in a full-on tech-metal assault with Bathyalpelagic III: Disequilibrated; the increasingly complex time signatures and sudden chaotic metal injection reflecting the sense of disorientation as we plunge ever further into the heart of The Ocean.
How far down into the black can sunlight reach?
The chaos ends abruptly as we dive into the Abyssopelagic zone, where even the monsters of the midnight deep cannot reach. The sense of brooding calm is restored; Rossetti's clean vocals complimented by violins and post-rock sensibilities.
This must be the most forlorn place in the world. You'll see for yourselves.
As the Hadopelagic zone approaches we're now so deep we're rooted to the bed of some unfathomable ocean trench, and a wash of claustrophobia can be felt as the band revert back to their melancholic, more melodic progressive rock. Then suddenly without warning, an almighty riff appears alongside Rossetti's equally abrasive vocals and a chorus that is certain to have Tool looking on nervously.
Repelled and pulled towards each other: repelled again.
With the sea bed before us, Demersal and Benthic envelop the senses in an earth-shattering wash of crushing post-metal, before the music fades into nothingness and all contact is lost, miles beneath the waves where no sunlight has ever penetrated.
Hold your breath and close your eyes. This is what you have been hoping and waiting for all your life.
The Ocean continue to improve with time, and Pelagial stands tall in 2013 as this unique Collective's most accomplished work thus far; a triumph of ambition and awe-inspiring progressive metal, finally realised in full. The detail that mastermind Robin Staps and his merry men put into the music is as alluring and rewarding as it has always been. Since their previous release they've toured with Opeth, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Between The Buried and Me and Devin Townsend, all of whom appear to have influenced the band's sound to some extent. Ebbing and flowing between subtle melody, grandiose orchestral movements and complex, blistering progressive metal, The Ocean's vision has never been clearer, even down in the darkest depths of their own abyss. The ideas, the concepts and the songwriting have all been honed yet again, and where the companion release of Heliocentric and Anthropocentric succeeds, Pelagial conquers.
Only when taken as a single piece of music can this album be truly appreciated, and with repeated listens comes further appreciation of the subtleties and intricacies hidden within. With some versions being released with a second disc containing the fully instrumental version, the listener will be able to experience the music as it was originally intended by the band. Some very limited box sets will come equipped with very special packaging and a DVD of video footage that will accompany you on your journey down into the abyss. The Ocean do nothing by halves; something that is plain to see now more than ever before.