posted on 4/2010 By:
Ok, so there’s "ambitious"-- maybe a three part song about the Illiad or a concept album based on the Bible -- and then there’s Germany’s The Ocean who have released two sets of double albums (FluXion/Aeolian and the brilliant Precambrian) with one of them being an album based around an entire millennia of time.
So here we have part one of yet another double album, and this time the band has tackled the very minor topic of Christianity and its development from medieval times all the way through to modern fundamentalist views. Heliocentric covers the early part of well, heliocentric views through to Darwin’s era with the upcoming Anthropocentric covering modern creationism theories.
Now, all of that sounds ambitious and challenging -- and it is. And it’s done with all of The Ocean's vast array of guest musicians and ebbing, flowing post rock tenets, but I have to be honest with you, some of you are going to be disappointed with the far more mellow take on the genre presented on Heliocentric.
The nearest comparison I can make is bands like At the Soundawn (whose upcoming album Shifting is actually better than Heliocentric, in my opinion), Day Without Dawn or the transition that Finland’s Callisto made from Noir to Providence. There’s still a few elements of crumbling, epic post rock by way of some jagged riffs and a few harsh shouts here and there, but for the most part, mainly due to new vocalist Loic Rossetti, Heliocentric is much more focused on clean singing, delicate hues and string instrumentation backing more tempered, rock-based metal. Now, I know The Ocean have always had their more experimental, ambient side and brass/string orchestral dabblings, but they’ve always been offset with some truly heavy post rock crescendos, and I’ve got to be honest, there are none here.
After the requisite intro “Shamayim”, the first real track “Firmament” sets the tone and lets you know what you in for the next 51 minutes. It seems to have traces of Tool, and Rossetti is channeling Trent Reznor (listen to “Epiphany” and “Metaphysics of the Hangman”). Sure, the song delvers some shouts and rumbling metal a few minutes in, but it's short lived. As the song shimmers and saunters with still artful melodies, it becomes apparent that The Ocean’s heavier side has taken a back seat. Even though brief spurts of harsh vocals and metal arise here and there to tantalize and tempt, they are hardly mountainous, crushing waves of metal, and they are quickly overrun by dreamy acoustics, pianos, trumpets and Rossetti’s slightly effeminate, lounge-singer voice (“The First Commandment of the Luminaries”,” Metaphysics of the Hangman”, “Swallowed by the Earth” and the album's best and heaviest cut "The Origin of Species"). And album has plenty of entire songs with no metal at all, instead with crooning, dramatic orchestration and instrumentation delivering the concept (“Ptolemy Was Wrong”, “Catharsis of a Heretic”, “Epiphany”). Artful and pleasantly done no doubt, but hardly the hefty balance of previous albums.
But again, if you like the more relaxed hues of the bands mentioned above, you’ll be all over this as The Ocean further expands their wings and seems content to appeal to a broader audience. And I should mention that in a recent interview with guitarist Robin Staps, he hinted that Anthropocentric might be more of a metal album, but we will have to wait till the Fall to see. Alone, Heliocentric stands as somewhat of a disappointment, especially compared to Precambrian.
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