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The Ocean (or sometimes known as The Ocean Collective) was founded in 2000 by guitarist and songwriter Robin Staps. The often referred to collective based on in their first two years as a band they went through something like forty members outside of Staps. It seems like it took the full two years to make their first established line up and dropping their first album “Islands/Tides” which was one thirty minute song which would establish themselves as a very progressive post metalish band. This was followed by an instrumental EP called fogdiver released on Make my day records but did not truly become the band you hear today until in 2005 they signed to Metal Blade records, subsequently releasing Fluxion and Aeolian.
Over the next few years, they started touring the world and finalizing their line up even though on albums like Fluxion, Aeolian and Precambrian which featured a ton of vocalists throughout the recording and touring process. In 2009 during the recording of Heliocentric and Anthropocentric they had finally seemingly found their vocalist in Loïc Rossetti who has been their active touring and recording vocalist ever since. In 2013 they released the album preceding this current release “Pelagial” which was a concept album based around slowly descending from the top of the ocean to its deepest darkest reaches of it. On the note of diving deep, let us board the old submarine that is our headphones and dive deep within the ocean of “Phanerozoic I”.
Running around forty-eight minutes through seven tracks this concept album, broke into two parts, that will be released two years apart (Part two comes out in 2020). According to the band, the concept is based around the Phanerozoic eon, which succeeded the Precambrian supereon, spanning a 500 million-year period leading to the present day. It has witnessed the evolution and diversification of plant and animal life on Earth and the (partial) destruction of it during 5 mass extinction events. Pretty brainy stuff going on behind the music now let us see with this in mind what this concept sounds like!
The album starts with an intro track "The Cambrian Explosion". Which is bright and shiny intro track, mostly keys and synth leading right into the first track nicely "Cambrian II: Eternal Recurrence". Speaking of “Cambrian II: Eternal Recurrence" overall a longer track, with tons going on and seems to in its almost 8 minutes run time go through seemingly three full distinct movements. From moments of raw heaviness to spacey interludes to even a bit of classical moments, mixed with the intro this is a really good start to the album! Which leads to another stand out track in track three "Ordovicium: The Glaciation of Gondwana" The second shortest song on the album, still close to five minutes but starts off fast and heavy. Throughout the runtime, the aggression keeps going with spacey moments spread out through the song, the pre-chorus part, especially which seems to be a running idea through the album so far.
The biggest stand out of the album for me had to be track five “Devonian: Nascent“ my lord in time and scope this song is a beast!. The longest song on the album at eleven minutes, this song is shimmery, melodic and truly beautiful at times. At moments I could call it a musical equivalent to watching the northern lights by the sea, as the sea slowly gets less calm. There is a storm brewing, a nasty one but at times you find yourself so lost in the lights you all but welcome the coming storm and all that it brings if only to savor the moment of peace. Overall this song does not feel like eleven minutes at all, in the best way before I knew it I was all but nine and a half minutes into it when it felt like only a minute or two had gone by. Then the final track “Permian: The Great Dying” this song was released early and was my first taste of this album. Which was an interesting choice as I was going to assume the rest of the album would be similar, though in a way it is, but every song on this album has its own thing going for it? There is one easy way to sum this some up, brooding. While the vocals are clean and melodic, you can all but physically feel the brooding swell in the background. Moments of longing or regret seem to flow through the lyrics and vocals which very much carry this song as the music for a good part of the track is very much in the background with the main strings like guitar and bass overshadowed in the verses by actual strings sections. A solid end to a solid album it ends big and leaves the listener wanting part two, but like the listener or myself I guess we will see that in two years.
The downside of this album was only really in two tracks on this album track four “Silurian: Age of Sea Scorpions” and track six "The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse". It was hard to pick downsides from this album as overall it was all pretty solid, so I went with this based solely on out of all the tracks on this album, these two were just kind of well, there. "The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse" was an interlude leading into “Permian: The Great Dying” that like many interludes kind of felt not like it was linking the two songs but more just there to up the runtime and could have been fine had it been left out. I don’t know what it was about “Silurian: Age of Sea Scorpions” it was a decent track but at an almost ten-minute track it just kind of floated by and nothing really caught my ear on any of my listens, it wasn’t objectively bad but nothing really stood out to me from it.
This has to be about a tie between “Ordovicium: The Glaciation of Gondwana” and “Devonian: Nascent“ as they were both great for what they were, Ordovicium was a much-needed burst of energy in a very drawn out album. While if I had to give someone one track on this album to listen to, to understand why it is a great album, it would have to be “Devonian: Nascent“ I normally wouldn’t recommend such a long track, but everything this band does right is all wrapped up in this track!
A solid album by a solid band who I have some history of loving their last few albums. Is this album of the year? Not exactly but is it up there with the amazing releases this year? I would definitely say yes and give it a solid B—if not a soft B!
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