Live Review: The Ocean

Audio – 9/7

The Ocean’s Pelagial was the best heavy album of 2013. Essentially one long 53 minute song split into 11 tracks, it’s a descent from The Ocean’s surface to its murky depths. Appropriately, the music starts off with mostly clean vocals and melodies, then becomes increasingly crushing, claustrophobic, and frantic as you’re pulled deeper towards the sea bed. It’s both a lesson in geology and an exploration of the psyche.

It makes sense then that on the Pelagial tour The Ocean have been playing the album in its entirety. How these tracks could be split to fit into a more conventional setlist would be interesting to see in the future, but for now, the progression of the album translates well in a live setting.

The music speaks for itself, but it’s the nuances, like a simple lighting rig that goes from light blues, to greens, to reds as the set progresses, that bring the audience into the claustrophobic world of the album. The videoclip, released with the limited edition of the album, shows layers of the ocean and what’s found there, along with a physically and mentally exposed woman reacting to the psychological descent.

All these ideas and imagery would mean nothing if the music didn’t back it up, but The Ocean are one of the most consistent metal bands around, delivering their epic ideas without getting too out of control when it comes to performance. ‘Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny’ is a straight-forward, conventional track with a catchy hook, followed by ‘Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses’ with its thundering percussion and equally as melodic vocals. By the time ‘Bathyalpelagic III: Disequilibrated’ kicks in, heads are banging more furiously, vocalist Loïc Rossetti’s neck is pulsing from the increasingly aggressive vocals, and the imagery surrounding the music grows darker as the claustrophobia sets in.

The crushing ‘Benthic: The Origin Of Our Wishes’ ends the set with a crimson red hue, its sludge metal exhausting and violent after what preceded it. Its methodical and slow nature is intimidating when contrasted with the uptempo tracks from an hour earlier. Rossetti screams “there’s no one here, no one can harm them here, oh God…” and there is a merciful calm as the set concludes.

This isn’t the most metal gig. Given the artistry of the band, it’s understandable that people outside of the typical metal crowd are drawn in, and many are here tonight. Nothing is taken away from the performance – the hypnotic nature of the show captivates everyone, and moshing isn’t necessary to show your admiration for a heavy band. Enthusiastic cheers here mean what the biggest circle pit means to Slipknot.

The Ocean are one of the most rewarding acts around right now, both live and on record. They are artistic, passionate, and powerful performers, with Rossetti leaping off stage and shouting in people’s faces, yet he never bothers those who don’t want to be bothered. If you’re a fan of heavy music, of albums with running themes and narratives, or just want to try something different, you could do a lot worse than checking out The Ocean.

[Scott Wilson]

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