Conscious of the expanse they’ve crafted for themselves and stand before as a band, The Ocean present an expansive, all encompassing sound on their 2018 full length Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic, out November 2 via Metal Blade Records. The work truly sounds like it’s 17 years in the making — at the beginning of that stretch of time, the multi-talented Robin Staps founded the band.
17 Years In The Making
He feels as though in crafting their latest material, they drew from across the breadth of their work, keeping themselves unrestricted and still, after all these years, zeroing in on exactly what they mean as a project.
“The new album is a very condensed Ocean-experience,” he asserts. “It’s the result of more than 15 years of writing music within the paradigms of this band, and at the same time a reflection on previous albums and what I’ve learned from them. Your personal taste and what you see as challenges in music develop and change over the years to some degree, but there is also a sort of continuity, a red thread that goes through everything you do as an artist. I feel that this new record is closer than ever to my initial vision of this band when I started it 17 years ago — yet at the same time it’s the best possible representation of my contemporary vision of it. It’s closer to the core than ever before.”
That core — somewhat like the band’s namesake — transcends simple understanding. For the unfamiliar, The Ocean play a massive but thick brand of drawn out post-metal that’s only partially described by any particular adjective. That feature proves especially pronounced on their latest material as the band makes its way through style after style, fitting them into their huge and sweeping musical paradigm.
“There is nothing mathematical about it,” Staps says of the band’s method, “But there is a certain skeleton to every song. I guess if you compare The Ocean tracks you will be able to analyze that and boil it down to an “Ocean skeleton,” which is not just a certain type of structure but also certain musical, harmonic and rhythmic elements that repeat throughout our music. I don’t write with that skeleton consciously in mind — it’s not like a schedule… but what I write naturally shapes up towards that skeleton, whether I want to or not. That’s our artistic signature and style. We can’t really get rid of it even if we wanted to. And that’s precisely what fans usually like about an artist.”
Staps does prove conscious of the manner in which his band’s “skeleton” takes shape. Considering the band name, he and his fellow musicians of course operate under a shadow of magnanimity that hardly proves a gimmick. They incorporate an understanding of “the void” — and what fills at least some of it up — into their work. It is out there, after all.
“There’s an uncertainty about the deep water that irrevocably makes us wonder, and it’ll never change. You can’t resist being in awe while respectfully gazing at the ocean’s endless horizons. It’s something we all share — an ambiguous fascination for the unknown darkness that lives within us,” he observes, tying the grandiosity to the familiar.
Twisting & Turning
In light of their breadth, the band doesn’t sound remotely hesitant to try new methods and experiment with sounds that are either new to them or new to the music community at large.
Dissonance plays into these broad, sweeping methods, as does softer music like direct, straightforward post-rock.
“Tension and release or relief are integral parts to dramatic composition. One cannot exist without the other. A good, challenging song is the right recipe with the right relation or proportions of both ingredients. However, there is no general formula for that, as it is highly subjective and also depends on the album context. Every dramatic album — and I mean dramatic in a very positive way. It is something that every musician engaged in heavy music is trying to accomplish whether they want to admit it or not — is an attempt of finding, a chasing of this formula,” Staps adds.
“There is no thinking behind it — it’s music,” Staps quips of the methods employed by his particular band. “Music, especially instrumental music doesn’t really come from thinking. The thinking happens once the music — and even vocal melodies included, that is — is written, when it comes to writing lyrics, and developing a topic, a theme for a song or an album.”
The band’s reliance on the metaphorical ocean waves of their craft has carried them to yet again newer heights.
Image via Jo Fischer. Preorders are at this link.
Listen to The Ocean below, via Spotify.