Brutal Deluxe

In recent years, new and emerging death metal bands have begun incorporating many different influences, both old and new, resulting in a huge amount of variety from what is traditionally considered a part of the death metal genre. Chicago five-piece Oceano are a shining example of uncompromising, unadulterated death metal taken to the next level by combining individual band members' influences and creating something that many would describe as deathcore. Having become somewhat of a dirty word of late (and often for the wrong reasons), it could however be used to loosely describe Oceano's music, if only as a rough guide.

It is immediately clear upon listening to the band's third album, that there is no room whatsoever for pretension or gimmicks of any kind. The opening duo of Eternal Wasteland and Slow Murder are perfect examples of just how uncompromising the band are determined to be; Adam Warren's impressive guttural death-growls matching the tight and clinical drumming and guitar instrumentation. Yet this focus on brutality breeds a lack of excitement and innovation within the music, and consequently these songs are also perfect examples of just how lifeless death metal can be; the result being about as interesting as a coach trip around the M25.

The crossover of death metal and hardcore has not always been a popular one, with negative opinions fuelled by an avalanche of tedious breakdowns and a lack of creativity. Oceano are unlikely to rock any boats in this department, with the majority of Incisions conforming to this exact stereotype. Ridiculously down-tuned to the point where musical notes are barely discernible, the likes of Severed Appendages and New Age Apophis are a relentless barrage of death metal ferocity and punishing hardcore breakdowns. This will undoubtedly moisten the knickers of many extreme music fans, whilst turning off just as many who would consider such a combination long past its welcome.

The production is far too slick for music that would be so readily labelled as brutal or savage; it suits the occasional keyboard atmospherics and it helps to accentuate the more technically-charged moments, but for a band who tend to keep things fairly simple, the overall album feels like it should be a lot grittier.

Incisions is not a terrible album, but the majority of the music fails to evoke any emotion in me other than indifference. There are certainly exceptions: Slave of Corporotocracy is proof that the band can write heavier material with interesting riffs and some decent blastbeats thrown in for good measure.

It's not all so unapologetically one-dimensional either; Internal War has some interesting rhythms, blending brutal death metal hooks with keyboard atmospherics, whilst the title track delves briefly into cyber-metal territory. Typically, the highlight of such an album is the atmospheric intermission; Embrace Nothingness being the one moment where the band choose to strip away the brutality and focus on creating a slow, brooding breather from the aural punishment that surrounds it. Instrumental track Disseverance is disappointingly average; an unfortunate step down from the instrumentals found on previous albums Depths and Contagion.

There are moments of magic, and there are moments of mundane mediocrity. The down-tuned dissonance is not necessarily an over-indulgence, but after 45 minutes it becomes an utterly tiresome experience. If Incisions is anything beyond all doubt, it is uncompromising in its vision. It's certainly not for everyone, but it's certainly worth a punt. This is shamelessly one-dimensional, breakdown-heavy death metal, but with so much unequivocal conviction behind the delivery, I can't help but appreciate what the band have achieved here. It does what it sets out to do and is seemingly happy in achieving nothing more than that. If mindless brutality is what is being craved then drink deep, otherwise move along swiftly. Fans of extreme music who are already critical of the modern, so-called deathcore movement will probably find little here of worth. There are certain moments that do shine, but those moments are far too sporadic for this album to be anything other than another lost chapter in the book of heavy metal.