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Oceans Of Slumber - "Winter" (CD)

Oceans Of Slumber - "Winter" CD cover image

"Winter" track listing:

1. Winter
2. Devout
3. Night In White Satin
4. Lullaby
5. Laid To Rest
6. Suffer The Last Bridge
7. Good Life
8. Sunlight
9. Turpentine
10. Apopologue
11. How Tall The Trees
12. ...This Road
13. Grace

Reviewed by on May 9, 2016

"After having listening through all of “Winter” a half dozen times now, I'm left quite conflicted. On the one hand, there is some stellar prog metal to be found in here. On the other, about half the album just could not hold my interest at all."

Unexpected new prog metal breakouts always get my attention quickly, as anything that mashes up diverse genres will immediately come up on my metallic radar. Anticipation for this non-traditional take on various metal styles was incredibly high as I heard teases for “Winter,” and that only increased as I noticed every other site was giving Oceans Of Slumber exceedingly high reviews.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid I'm going to have to break ranks with my esteemed colleagues on this one. To be clear: “Winter” is not a bad album, far from it in fact, but it does stumble and fall on several major fronts.

The album actually kicks off strong with the eight minute opening track, strongly highlighting the diverse vocal talents of Cammie Gilbert. For a track of this length there's all the expected transitions, going from melancholy to heavy and back again. The whole album features the many changes of that variety that the term “prog metal” would indicate: harsh growls to clean singing, smooth jazzy segments to heavy distortion, light and dark balanced between emotional parts and full-force metallic assaults, and so on.

If you dig Haken, To-Mera, Suspyre, Leprous, etc. it's a good bet you'll get behind the general direction of the album. With the focus on the less-heavy elements and the direction of the clean singing there's also strong appeal for fans of female-fronted rock acts like Evanescence or Otep. Further shaking up the formula, long death / doom segments also appear that bring to mind Swallow The Sun, and every now and again you'll even hear black metal blasting.

There are times where this all works really well, even occasionally giving off an (old) Opeth feel in the switching back and forth from harsh metal to clean and melodic. “Devout” is a great example of how all these different elements arrive and then switch back and forth at a relentless pace. On the whole, however, the combination is frequently less than the sum of its parts – a problem that's exacerbated by the mix, as the heavy parts are all much lower in the sound than the clean singing.

“Night In White Satin” for instance really plods along and feels much longer than its 5:45 run time, with the blasting drums not really working alongside the cries of “Yes, I love you!” over and over. There are also very noticeably instances where these diverse elements aren't meshed together well or are placed in baffling locations. “Lullaby” consists entirely of clean singing and light instrumentation, and is then immediately followed by the acoustic interlude “Laid To Rest,” rather than placed next to something heavier for contrast.

“How Tall The Trees” is another short instrumental interlude, this time pulling out some very non-traditional instruments (is that a didgeridoo?), and it's interesting in theory, but the problem is that it has literally no connection to any of the surrounding music. It doesn't match anything else on the disc, and just seems to have been thrown on for the sake of being weird and different, rather than because it actually works well on a metal album.

“Sunlight” is another slow plodder that has interesting single elements, but they just aren't meshed perfectly. “Turpentine” goes the same route, really starting drag by the end with the repeating sounds, and follow-up “Apopologue” is then just sort of a mess, mixing all the elements together in a less-than-cohesive or sonically pleasing way.

After having listening through all of “Winter” a half dozen times now, I'm left quite conflicted. On the one hand, there is some stellar prog metal to be found in here. On the other, about half the album just could not hold my interest at all. I'd like to hear more from Oceans Of Slumber in the future, but there are clearly some rough patches that need to be ironed out in the formula.

Highs: Transitions galore, excellent vocal work, and some interesting meshing of diverse metal genres.

Lows: Frankly, a lot of this is more a mess of sounds than a cohesive whole, and the slower tracks just absolutely plod along at a boring pace.

Bottom line: It's 50/50 whether you'll dig this odd prog metal mashup: half is great, half is a fractured mess.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)