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The Ocean - "Heliocentric" (CD)

The Ocean - "Heliocentric" CD cover image

"Heliocentric" track listing:

1. Shamayim
2. Firmament
3. The First Commandment of the Luminaries
4. Ptolemy Was Wrong
5. Metaphysics of the Hangman
6. Catharsis of a Heretic
7. Swallowed by the Earth
8. Epiphany
9. The Origin of Species
10. The Origin of God

Reviewed by on April 13, 2010

"The Ocean may be finally establishing themselves as a pillar of post-rock, just as the topics of their newest album became scientific and philosophical pillars hundreds of years ago."

The Ocean is the connection modern day metal has to the hippie movement of the 1960s. A huge, rotating roster has contributed to their previous four albums and musical experimentation and near constant touring is the order of the day. The band’s nine year history is also littered with stories of empty clubs, substance fueled tours, excrement filled mistakes, and even an eviction from their original studio/apartment “Oceanland.” But this completely dedicated crew, centered around founder Robin Staps, has developed some of the best post-metal of the last few years. “Heliocentric” is half of another sister-pair of productions (“Anthropocentric” comes out in October 2010), and is another phenomenal, yet strikingly different album from The Ocean.

On previous albums The Ocean looked to explore musical boundaries of specific types, and wrote songs and suites around those musical ideas. Vocals and lyrics were seemingly an afterthought: “Aeolian” explored the oppressive weight of heavy music and sister album “Fluxion” took non-western music into the fold, for example. But on “Heliocentric” the process has switched. Lyrical content dominates this album while the music is written to surround that content with appropriate background noise. And while there are still the requisite heavy screams, bellows and shrieks, gone are the plethora of dirty vocalists, replaced by Loic Rossetti’s clean croon. “Ptolemy Was Wrong” is a quiet six-plus minute ballad with only Rossetti’s contemplative delivery over simple piano melodies. Out of place on other The Ocean albums, it is a cog on “Heliocentric.”

The album itself pulses and undulates with volume and depth throughout, be it within or between songs. And “Heliocentric” never achieves the crushing depression of “Aeolian” or raw experimentation or “Fluxion,” opting instead for measured doses of gentle lullabies and heavier grunge jams. Along with the aforementioned “Ptolemy Was Wrong,” “Epiphany” and “Catharsis Of A Heretic” are gentle songs, with simple layered instruments providing the backdrop for focus on thoughtful words. “Metaphysics Of the Hangman” is based on distortion and a feedback tinged riff set, while Rossetti does his best Chris Cornell impression, ultimately getting really close to Cornell’s timbre and delivery style. “The Origin of Species” puts buzz saw guitars in the forefront before becoming a wild, caged animal that can’t escape its fate.

Easily the most accessible long player The Ocean has released thus far, “Heliocentric” is more of the traditional prog concept album. The theme of heliocentrism, or the idea that the earth revolves around the sun (and not the other way around), and the associated religious and social effects are explored. The creations of the firmament in the Bible (“Firmament”), the ideas of Copernicus and Galileo (“Ptolemy Was Wrong”) and Nietzsche’s rejection of Christian values (“Metaphysics of the Hangman”) are but a sampling of the heady topics covered on “Heliocentric.”

With well composed music and strong lyrics on “Heliocentric,” along with the most stable lineup and rehearsal arrangement the band has ever had, The Ocean may be finally establishing themselves as a pillar of post-rock, just as the topics of their newest album became scientific and philosophical pillars hundreds of years ago.

Highs: The last three songs of the album played together create an unbelievably excellent philosophical and musical suite.

Lows: Rossetti sometimes sounds a bit out of place.

Bottom line: Fantastic concept album by relatively unknown post-metal hippie types.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 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)