Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Ocean-Anthropocentric (With Bonus Wife Review!)

My wife has become (very much against her will) a connoisseur of the heavy metal arts; in fact, I would be willing to wager that she has listened to more heavy metal than possibly anybody who professes to dislike/hate/fear the genre, and has additionally formulated opinions of bands that nobody in her position would ever normally even be aware of.  She admits to "being able to deal with" Baroness, Mastodon (especially their newest album, Crack the Skye), and Isis.  She can even be quoted as liking Opeth.  Allow me to elaborate on this one, since I like the story so much: We were one morning driving to get some lunch at a local Cheeseburgeria, the indomitable Mighty Fine Burgers, and expressed her distaste for the more traditionally deathy-sounding hydro-grinders Cephalic Carnage.  Since I had heard that album a thousand times already, I made a motion to change the CD in car's CD player.  She looked over at me and said, "Put something good on this time.  Put on Opeth."  I almost crashed the car I was so surprised to hear something like that come out of her mouth, especially with the off-the-cuff nonchalance that I might inform her not to enter the bathroom for a while.

What does all of this have to do with The Ocean's newest fare, Anthropocentric, you might ask?  Well, allow me to first give you the inside skinny on The Ocean.

The Ocean is a band that has been getting a fair bit of lip service from Metalsucks, which is probably my favorite outlet for metal-related news items, and which unfortunately keeps me way-too-informed about Axl Rose and Ratt-related news.  Tragedy recently befell The Ocean in Europe, wherein they were bilked out of $8,200 dollars (or 16 Euros) by some phony foreign police officials.  See the Metalsucks article for details here.  As such, I felt compelled to take a listen to this band so that I could justify giving them some of my hard-earned ducats, which I don't feel so comfortable parting with lately (those dicks don't suck themselves, after all).

Disappointment is something that I have always stuggled with, and that everyone has to tackle from time to time.  Listening to Anthropocentric for the first time left me with that lonesome, let-down feeling, like when I discovered in my youth that most other kids didn't have to deal with a disciplinary "switch" made out of a length of extension cord with a fish hook taped to the end.  No, that's a joke.  My parents used a bag of oranges.

However, something about Anthopocentric drew me back a day or two later; something had stuck to me, and this time it wasn't a result of the bodily fluids I'm generally drenched in.  After a couple more listens, I found a lot of things to like about this album.  The music thunders and roars; The Ocean employ a familiar Neur-Isis shimmer to their sludge, which itself is dynamic and labyrinthine.  Anthropocentric surprises at different turns, including some up-tempo moments uncharacteristic of sludge in general.  My biggest gripe with this is the amount of clean singing that takes place.  It's not that The Ocean don't sound good when they sing clean; the cleaner, more dynamic vocal parts sound at turns like Disturbed (gross!), a less-whiny and resonably tolerable Emo band (oh, kill me), and Greg Puciato from the Dillenger Escape Plan (oh, that one isn't so bad at all).  And somehow, don't ask me how, The Ocean makes this good cop/bad cop approach not only tolerable, but powerful and wholly acceptable.

My favorite surprise on the album comes at the sixth track, the third movement in a song suite titled "The Grand Inquisitor," subtitled "III, A Tiny Grain of Faith." This track throws something wholly unexpected at the listener with a spacey, dissonant keyboard interlude that swirls and pulsates, accompanied by an ethereal soprano (in the modern sense, not the classical sense), and colored by a totally tasty violin that appears, tickles my pretension bone, and glissandos back into the universal ether from whence it came.  This kind of move would be schlocky and overly pretentious for most bands to pull off, but The Ocean doesn't allow this to turn into a music-school showcase.  It's just pretentious enough, and at under two minutes long, the track is gone as quickly as it came, having given me a welcome breath of fresh air from the suffocating, math-y sludge that bookends it.

All in all, I would recommend Anthropocentric to people who, like me, can't get enough Isis and had to buy a box of doughnuts to take into a darkened bathroom for a good cry when they broke up.  The music is highly dynamic without getting long-winded.  Help them recover from their recent monetary loss by purchasing something at their online shop to help them out.  Or you can easily just steal it.

Bonus!  My wife gave a great review to this record, which will be quoted in it's entirety right here:

"What is this?...Oh...This isn't as terrible as the music you normally listen to."

Two four-star reviews in one!

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