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The Ocean - "Anthropocentric" (CD)

The Ocean - "Anthropocentric" CD cover image

"Anthropocentric" track listing:

1. Anthropocentric (9:24)
2. The Grand Inquisitor I: Karamazov Baseness (5:02)
3. She was the Universe (5:39)
4. For He that Wavereth... (2:06)
5. The Grand Inquisitor II: Roots & Locusts (6:33)
6. The Grand Inquisitor III: A Tiny Grain of Faith (1:55)
7. Sewers of the Soul (3:43)
8. Wille Zum Untergang (6:02)
9. Heaven TV (5:03)
10. The Almightiness Contradiction (4:34)

Reviewed by on December 27, 2010

"...'Anthropocentric' focuses on extended passages of deeply distorted and driving riff swamps that are occasionally interrupted by sections of melody, harmony, and quiet."

The Ocean is a true art-metal band. Big into philosophy, the band started as The Ocean Collective featuring over 40 musicians. One album, “Aeolian,” even featured seven distinct vocalists, each specializing in a different type of growl, shout, or shriek. Now stripped down in title and personnel, The Ocean has completed the back half of another double concept album. “Anthropocentric” pairs with ”Heliocentric” and has lyrics based on the “The Brothers Karamasov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, extending The Ocean’s views of philosophy and Christianity. It’s much headier stuff than the usual Christianity screed we get from black metal. As “Anthropocentric” plays the music the philosophy slowly closes in, making the whole thing deep, dark, and claustrophobic.

Musically, “Anthropocentric” is similar to “Heliocentric,” stripped down to the core of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, “Anthropocentric” focuses on extended passages of deeply distorted and driving riff swamps that are occasionally interrupted by sections of melody, harmony, and quiet. But there are two key pieces that make “Anthropocentric” different from its older brother. Many of the songs drift in and out of one another, which makes for one 50 minute long song instead of a ten song album. This constant removes barriers and points of reference, making the album a disconcerting listen. Not knowing where one song starts or where one ends, and the lack of hooks and repetition means any moment could be anywhere on the album.

The second piece where “Anthropocentric” differs is in the implementation of the quiet sections. “Heliocentric” had deliberate bits and songs that were deep and beautiful lullabies, set off from the rest of the noise, desperately begging for salvation with despairing majesty. “Anthropocentric” has similar sections, but instead of being standalone pieces they float ephemerally within the larger work – organically growing and shrinking out of the specific noise that precedes it. This fleeting nature doesn’t give the calm and security needed to offset the disorienting heaviness, and the brief temptations make even greater anxiety.

These two musical effects are effective metaphors for the philosophy: humanity floating as a small and fleeting piece of an oppressive and unending universe. But for the music it makes a dense, disturbing and unsettling listen. Guitars riff and chug their way from melody to melody, never lingering and never repeating, while clean and harsh vocals trade off tones of hope and fear. The Ocean has crafted another very well composed, well played, effective, and affecting album. By the end of “Anthropocentric” we are disconcerted, and quite frankly, scared, which is probably exactly what The Ocean wanted to happen.

Highs: The three main tracks, “The Grand Inquisitor I-III” make for an engaging and challenging set.

Lows: The drums get swallowed by the production at times.

Bottom line: Post-metal at its inventive and oppressive best.

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)