posted on 11/2010 By:
The Ocean is back with its follow up to this year's Heliocentric, an album that may have surprised the lot of you due to its emphasis on the more orchestral side of the band as well as its lack of heaviness. If you were one who assumed the second half of The Ocean's latest concept would return to the heavier side of things, you are correct. Mostly.
To say The Ocean has a knack for releasing double LPs would be an understatement, considering it's the only thing they've ever done as far as their full-length albums go. Fluxion and Aeolian were both meant to be released as one album, as well as Heliocentric and Anthropocentric. The most perturbing aspect of this ongoing concept (with the exception of Precambrian) is the fact that the band's attempts to release elongated, two-part concept albums are a bit lopsided. I do credit The Ocean for managing to display a wide array of different sounds and approaches to metal, but it's difficult to not assume that some of it is filler. Therein lies the catch 22: The Ocean's willingness to experiment is what sets them apart, but it's not what makes listening to their music enjoyable. Fortunately, quite a few of the songs on Anthropocentric are pretty damn enjoyable. I know...I'm getting to that. Please pardon the parallel between the long-windedness of this review and the amount of time it took me to comprehend The Ocean's latest Sunday school science lesson.
The Ocean has quickly returned to its sludgier ways, as Anthropocentric immediately leads off with its crushing ten-minute title track. If there's one thing the band has mastered, it's how to write incredibly catchy hooks. Although Staps and other guest musicians help make up the album's vocal tracks, Loïc Rossetti has proven himself to be a marvelous vocalist. Whether his punishing screams are accompanied by the sound of a tuned-down guitar or his clean vocals dance alongside a softer, melodic chorus, Rossetti's vocal passages (especially during the clean segments) are non-obnoxious and share the same caliber as Linus Jägerskog of Burst. Aside from the opening track, "She Was the Universe," "The Grand Inquisitor II," and "Heaven TV" are all examples of how The Ocean's beautiful guitar melodies, carried by the dirtiness of crunchy, distorted chugging, lead perfectly into each chorus. Although each of the aforementioned songs has a fairly accessible structure individually, they all follow fairly different patterns and take some getting used to. With time, you'll be happily singing along to them in your head. The only problem with Anthropocentric is that the same can't be said about the remainder of the songs. A few of the heavier songs are far from memorable and contain little variation, while the softer ones are annoyingly similar to every decent post act you've ever heard. Don't get me wrong here -- utilizing a few minutes of space on an album such as this to play some softer jams is certainly more desirable than 70 minutes of arid guitar meandering with no vocals, but it feels too much like filler. Not to mention, didn't The Ocean already give us an entire album of softer songs anyway? A few string instruments and bizarre keyboard effects spice up Anthropocentric's lighter moments, but they don't really maintain a big enough role to greatly enhance the album.
Robin Staps, the mastermind and only remaining founding member of what one was once The Ocean Collective, has made a considerable amount of changes since the release of the group's 2007 meisterwerk, Precambrian. Oceanland, a former World War II aluminum factory turned recording studio and living quarters for The Ocean has since been seized by Berlin officials. Additionally, Staps has stated that the band is now an official five-piece (plus a permanent sound manager) with guest musicians. Although a touring band with thirty or so members (some of whom have become lost to alcoholism, have been severely injured on stage or have merely disappeared en route) sounds frighteningly exciting, Staps has made a step in the right direction as far as the band's lineup is concerned, because I personally don't believe The Ocean's plethora of guest musicians or explorations into uncharted metal territory is what makes Anthropocentric worth listening to.
Now for the challenge: release a 70-80 minute LP, condensing all of their desired sounds into one cohesive, coherent album that is enjoyable and doesn't require so much fucking time to listen to. A dainty portion of mixed greens is fine on a side plate, but the meat and potatoes are really what we all look forward to. If The Ocean can serve more of it, I'd be willing to bet their best is yet to come.
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