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The Ocean - "Pelagial" (CD)

The Ocean - "Pelagial" CD cover image

"Pelagial" track listing:

1. Epipelagic
2. Mesopelagic: The Uncanny
3. Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses
4. Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams
5. Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibrated
6. Abyssopelagic I: Boundless Vasts
7. Abyssopelagic II: Signals of Anxiety
8. Hadopelagic I: Omen of the Deep
9. Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe
10. Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance
11. Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes

Reviewed by on May 9, 2013

"With few noticeable flaws, 'Pelagial' stands as the band's most fluid effort to date, free of murk or nonsensical driftwood."

Within the last century, deep sea diving has brought mankind to new depths in increasing frequency. Most recently, "Titanic" director James Cameron made a solo dive to the deepest spot on the earth in the Mariana Trench, a record 6.85 miles deep. Continuing on in the tradition of exploring unknown depths, The Ocean follows up trailblazing prior albums with the suitably huge "Pelagial," making it the sixth dive overall for the Berlin-based band. This time, the lyrical concept is centered around breaching the innermost core of the human psyche.

Paralleling the descent into the essence of a human's wants and wishes, the album audibly takes the listener through the various depths of the ocean by the name on each track. As the musicians sculpt the music and narrate the journey, mixing and mastering engineer Jens Bogren (of Opeth, Daylight Dies, Soilwork, and Ihsahn fame) gives shape to the sound, moving from a well-produced and crystalline production on the surface to the more spacious, reverberant, and darker production, steeped in doom metal tradition in the lower levels. The band maintains this transition with Pelican- and Agalloch-like grace thanks to practiced songwriting and the ears of Bogren, who was told to mix the entire record in one session rather than track-by-track.

“Progressive melodic doom metal” seems to be an adequate moniker for the sound at this point in the band's career, although a significant amount of lightness pervades the songs on "Pelagial." There's nothing overly oppressive even in the later part of the album, making for a very easy listen. Moreover, the vocals of Loic Rossetti are taken out on a bonus DVD in a special edition of the album for an even more pure and instrumental listen. However, Rossetti's vocals add in a dynamic that feels essential in tracks such as "Mesopelagic: The Uncanny," "Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibrated," and "Abyssopelagic II: Signals of Anxiety," shifting from pure clean to bluesy, evolving to a fiery clean, and finally to a beastly growl. Vocal intelligibility is an issue, however, making a lyric sheet to follow along with a must.

At the deepest depths of the sea, the pressure of the water above is enough to implode objects, which is made into a tangible feeling by the time "Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance" is reached. "Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes" is positively mastodonic in terms of size and heaviness relative to the other tracks, moving slower with majestic purpose. In true concept record fashion, "Pelagial" rewards engaged listeners by utilizing themes that reappear on both guitars and synthesizers throughout the record. In various sections of the album, traces of Between The Buried and Me, Opeth, and Mastodon can be found in the technical riffing and drumming, to serve as counterpoints.

With few noticeable flaws, "Pelagial" stands as the band's most fluid effort to date, free of murk or nonsensical driftwood. For The Ocean Collective fans, this is a must, but even if it's your first dive, "Pelagial" is likely to be a good one.

Highs: "Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes" and "Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams"

Lows: Vocal intelligibility could be better.

Bottom line: A progressive melodic doom metal concept record that aims deep and hits hard.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)