"some music was meant to stay underground..."

The Ocean - "Fluxion (Re-Issue)" (CD)

The Ocean - "Fluxion (Re-Issue)" CD cover image

"Fluxion (Re-Issue)" track listing:

1. Nazca (4:39)
2. The Human Stain (8:06)
3. Comfort Zones (4:00)
4. Fluxion (4:18)
5. Equinox (4:14)
6. Loopholes (1:27)
7. Dead On The Whole (5:06)
8. Isla Del Sol (10:31)
9. The Greatest Bane (14:32)

Reviewed by on January 11, 2010

"The arrangements and restraint are both what make this album a fantastic journey and what show the overall musicianship of The Ocean. "

The Ocean is an ambitious group, as they recorded both this album and sister full length “Aeolian” simultaneously in 2003 and 2004. While banging out 20 songs may be a fairly straight forward exercise for AC/DC or U.D.O., The Ocean’s compositions must take an unreal amount of care to craft the precise amalgamations of extreme post-metal. And amazingly neither album suffers as a result of the simultaneous production, as both have distinct voices and sound like completely different sessions. Younger child “Aeolian” featured claustrophobic and dense soundscapes of doom and death along with a plethora of vocalists. But “Fluxion” has a different exploration in mind – a large dose of middle and far eastern melodies and the minimal vocals. Despite the overall quality of “Aeolian” (rated 4 stars by MU), in this sibling rivalry the more varied and textured “Fluxion” is the better child.

The first heavy dose of the varied genius is “The Human Strain.” Starting with a dense but groovy guitar chug, the song slowly fades and twists into Middle Eastern percussion and melody. Soon the band combines both doom metal with the eastern influences; the mess works well, as the band weaves each section together in a giant, but organized, jumble, and the overall tapestry is quite something to look at.

This type of amalgamation is common on “Fluxion,” as the band clearly enjoys playing with non-western melodies. The hard-edged “Comfort Zones” is a straight metal tune, but the few solo bridges are tinged with sand dunes. Melding “Comfort Zones” straight into the title track the band shifts gears abruptly, bringing the noodled guitar lines to the front, along with some string instruments. Using the main riff from “Comfort Zones” as an interlude and ending point, the title track meanders about as it tries to find its way back to the heavy but gets lost in a beautiful and remote land. “Isla Del Sol” has almost a suite structure to it, with the band going completely silent at times and then starting back in with a completely different theme. The Ocean divides, and then combines these musical themes repeatedly as they slowly build everything up together to the fascinating end.

While “Aeolian” focused the band on vocal texture and sonic soundscape experiments, “Fluxion” brings The Ocean’s musicians to bear. Many songs are driven by Mike Pilat’s growling bass lines, often without much other accompaniment. Robin Staps shows his quality through his guitar wanderings, and Gerd Kornmann plays his part well, taking the non-drum percussion task and layering polyrhythms over Torge Liebmann’s whack-a-mole drum kit.

But the arrangements and restraint are both what make this album a fantastic journey and what show the overall musicianship of The Ocean. While other post-metal wanderers might take eastern music and write their own version of “Arabian Nights the Musical,” The Ocean understands the power of scarcity. Pilat’s tortured roars and growls are used sparingly, particularly on the longer three tracks, giving both the music and vocals more grip on the frontal lobe. The band sticks to a fairly stock extreme metal base, featuring technical and progressive elements tinged with some black and death. When they choose to unfurl the unexpected eastern influences, winding song structures, electronics, samples, symphonic instruments and softer elements, the contrasts are both stark and striking.

Again using a truly collective effort on “Fluxion,” as it was on “Aeolian,” The Ocean shows that they are more than a one-trick group of metal hippies. The exploration on “Fluxion” is as deep and intense as other post-rock and post-metal excursions to experiment-land, but The Ocean made sure to maintain the musicality, dramatics, and heavy weight of really good metal.

Highs: The wandering longer tracks showcase a multitude of fantastic moments and contrasts.

Lows: Some of the shorter songs, “Equinox” and “Loopholes” in particular, would have been better suited as pieces of larger compositions and just end up being odd.

Bottom line: Variety and musicality coexist on this post-metal exploration of non-Western music.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)