German quintet The Ocean have just dropped their sixth album ‘Pelagial’, which is a concept album based upon the the chronicled journey throughout the vast ocean to its deepest unfathomable depths being the five pelagial depth zones: epipelagic, mesopelagic, bathyalpelagic, abyssopelagic, and hadopelagic.
If the complicated long words are giving you a bit of a dizzying effect, then I suggest you look up what each depth zone defines to help you on your quest through this amazing concept. But to make your life easier, the epipelagic zone is the depth that is closest to the light, but as the journey progresses we plunge further in to darkness. So in the musical equivalent, this basically means it starts off with a bit of brightness, and then as the album progresses it gets heavier and darker sending you in to the maelstrom to the very end.
There is also a loose theme tied in with the movie ‘Stalker‘ by Soviet-Russian filmmaker Andrey Tarkovsky, in which the movie portrays the psychological journey in to the inner self and subconsciousness.
One thing will be noted right now… if you thought the band had run out of ideas, then ‘Pelagial‘ will prove once again why they are quite simply one of the hardest working and explorational bands in modern metal.
The album in its entirety should be treated as one gigantic song divided in to separate suites (being the pelagial depths), or in the philosophical sense, a progressive journey of audio visual immersion. Which instantly makes this album an absolute treat to listen to because of its many musical and conceptual layers.
Another contributing factor to the terrific concept is the fact that a ‘Pelegial‘ movie was also made to co-incide with the theme of the album, and so that it flows with the music, so it makes for an ultimately rewarding audio visual experience. The movie was made by Craig Murray, who has also worked on videos with Nine Inch Nails and Converge, and can be found on the special edition boxset which is to be released soon (which we strongly urge that you buy upon its release via Pelagial Records).
But moving back to the album, as this writer will particular mention in any review, the production and the mixing of the music is absolutely vital to capturing the essence and the true nature of how powerful an album can be. On ‘Pelegial‘, producer Jens Bogren has made an absolute masterpiece in production to help project the sound in to the submersive atmosphere that it so deserves. He has turned this album in to a smooth, clear, and almost cinematic soundscape that compliments the nature of the music into a perfect marriage.
The album starts off with the beautifully gentle ‘Epipelagic’, which is a wonderful combination of piano, nautical sound effects, string sections and harp. Quite literally a very sombre and welcoming way to start off any album.
The second suite is also the second song ‘Mesopelagic: Into The Uncanny’, which starts off with a wonderfully hypnotic progressive metal swirl of big drums, guitars and cello. As the song progresses, the heavier it gets, however Loic Rossetti’s vocals do not spiral out of control in to a harsh and gutteral disonnance just yet.
The ‘Bathyalpalegic’ suite which is made up of three parts is a further exploration in to the musical journey. Particularly on ‘Bathyalpalegic I: Impasses’, Rossetti allows himself to display his impressive vocal talents and show that he is more than capable of singing some amazing harmonies as well as screaming out for his dear life.
The ‘Abyssopelagic’ suite displays further musical versatility, particularly with the strings section of violins / violas / cellos, and the percussion sections. Going in to a musically darker territory and the overall atmosphere bordering on a darker horizon and effectively taking the listener in to a deeper fathom.
It is when we enter the ‘Hadopelagic’ suite that we discover the deeper, darker elements to this album start to emerge. Particularly the slower tempo of the songs, and the more sludge / doom metal elements of the album that are reminiscent of bands like Cult Of Luna and Pelican, are apparent.
The last two songs after the five ‘depths’ or suites, are the songs ‘Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance’, and ‘Benthic: The Origin Of Our Wishes’. These final two songs end up being the most visceral and vocally aggressive songs on the album, and they both tie in to the spiralling abyss of the depths to which the listener has been taken on. By the time ‘Bethnic….’ has finished, the sounds of the ocean, the raw sounds of the band all begin to fade out as the journey has now ended.
What The Ocean have created here is one of the most challenging and adventurous metal albums of the year. To embark on this adventure with them is an absolute pleasure, and with multiple listens it never tires by any means, and there is something new to find out about this album every time.
‘Pelegial‘ ticks all the right boxes and so much more. A near flawless effort from one of the leading lights in experimental metal music. Sensational.
Reviewer: James Paul Matthews