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REVIEW: Oceans of Slumber – “Winter”

“Whispers death to life.” She did whisper. That tender, aching voice hit me. A penetrating sound which took me on a journey. I remember that feeling, when I first listened to those 4 words. I closed my eyes and exhaled, as a shivering feeling spiraled down my nerves. I needed to fully communicate, fully appreciate, and give in to the melody. I wanted to follow the voice in to the tunnel of the story. I was ready to be a part of it.

There are only a handful of albums that take your breath away with the very first moments of music. And as vocalist, Cammie Gilbert, sings softly: “It echoes through the halls.” It does, and it makes you listen. You instantly realize how today’s society is chained to the need for decoration, to set a proper stage for a great declaration, while missing out the greatness that lies within the conveyed message. The fact that beauty is sometimes hidden in the shadows. Gilbert did not need a tremendous musical background, but the exact opposite. She needed that steady, melancholic guitar tone, so that our ears would focus on her voice. She did not sing, she uncovered the story. There’s a beautiful element to her vocals that lies in between the words, in between the notes. The vibrations, breaths, resonance changes, and emotions. I guess that’s what really sucked me in to Oceans of Slumber‘s latest album Winter.

“A delicate design. Beautiful and intricate, they lead to your demise.” It is absolutely amazing to see how the proper words to define this album are actually hidden within the lyrics. OOS is not a new name in the modern progressive metal scene, but with Winter not only did they introduce their newest member, Ms. Gilbert, with her first full-length with the band, but also the new musical face of the band; a far more atmospheric, dark, mysterious, while still remaining faithful to their roots. Musically, the band steered their compositions in the direction in which Gilbert can stand up and take the edge. A fitting blend of serenity and combustion.

At certain points throughout the album, you can literally imagine how the vocals would have sounded if they kept on the approach shown on Aetherial. But at the same time, it allows you to understand how the newborn ambience better compliments the music and helps deliver the message in a far more fitting surrounding. I can understand how people might think of Oceans as a female-fronted Opeth sensation, but if you end up feeling like this, it only means you’ve left tons of musical content behind. It is a collaboration of ambient-carried progressive rock and metal, with a strong pole of soulful vocals which define and unifies the band. “Blue in my face, and it blew me away.”

Oceans of SlumberOne of the bigger challenges a band faces is finding the right balance where everyone can affect the music, while still keeping logic within these different contributions, and serving the music in the best way. The thirst to stand out sometimes acts as a barrier for another. OOS was able to find that balance. There is a clear concept in the matter of sound, and all members have done their best to deploy their instrumentation in that direction. A constant battle between the metal dimension of the music, ruled by the flow of Gilbert‘s soulful and powerful voice.

Another interesting thing to notice is the cover for The Moody Blues‘ “Nights In White Satin.” Usually, when a band decides to record a covered song, it appears at the bottom, perhaps even as a bonus track. On this occasion, it is listed third in the tracklist, and there’s a reason. Earlier, in the release of Blue which included many covered versions by the band, it was impossible to overlook the approach in which the band played these songs. I always felt that a good cover is one where the band takes the original song and redefines it as their own. It’s one thing to be able to play it fluently, but to be able to insert your musicality in to it, and make it ‘a song of your own’ for these few minutes of playing, is what takes it to another level. “Nights In White Satin” fits perfectly with the way this band write their own music, and immediately you feel how well it fits with the rest of the album. The calm and mesmerizing entrance, the black metal C-part vibe, including some massive blast beats carried by Dobber Beverly, and the Pink Floyd-like guitar sound – it all works, throughout the tides of this absolute classic.

Speaking of Beverly, he’s probably the hidden hero of this record. It is hard to be able to maneuver between melancholic, down to earth parts, and the aggressive brutal parts featured on almost every track. He was able to add his own feel to it, but never over-pressed his solid presence. From his place in the back, he knew exactly when to burst forward, and when to lay back. On the other hand, I did feel that in such an album where the deviation between clean and dynamic sounds is so crucial, bassist Keegan Kelly should’ve been a bit more up front. He did have the appropriate sound on, but during certain parts I just wished that he would’ve taken the lead.

In an interview for Noisey, Gilbert shared the fact that “Lullaby” is actually a family lullaby that her father, who passed away a few years back, had written many years ago. “We included it on the album so that was really exciting and I think she (her mother) got a bit teary-eyed when I showed it to her … The band is an expansion of family for us now and I think my dad would have loved it.” Her strong words only help understanding what this band means to its members and how emotional-carried Winter really is. Which takes us to the very beginning: this album is a journey, filled with stories. If you let yourself be consumed by them, you’ll immediately understand its greatness.

Score: 9.5/10.
Notable Tracks: “Winter,” “Sunlight,” “… This Road.”
FFO: The GatheringOpeth, Caligula’s Horse.

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