The Ocean along with the likes of Cult of Luna have become the flag bearers of post-metal. With a string of already excellent releases behind them they may just have topped them all with Pelagial. Okay so Precambrian is a bit of a classic but it's not fully representative of what The Ocean's sound is since Heliocentric/Anthropocentric.
Pelagial is the sound of a band fully at the top of their game. Initially devised and written as an instrumental album due to singer Loïc Rossetti taking ill. Pelagial is a single body of work, flowing together effortlessly. After Loïc had recovered it was decided he had to be involved, so it now is released in both vocal and instrumental versions. Double the pleasure for us as either way it's a remarkable album. Personally I enjoy the full experience of the vocal version and will focus on it for this review, but it's relevant to either.
I've mentioned Pelagial was written as one single piece of music and essentially it is. Although, there are physical markers and track names, it all flows together. Melodies and riffs also reappear throughout the course of the 53 minute running time. Though these are subtle and more noticeable when fully immersed in the albums brilliance.
What stands The Ocean apart from others is their blending of melodic progressiveness and post-metal heaviness. Pelagial begins in more melodic style and if you think of the theme of the album gets darker and heavier the further you go into it.
When I received the album I had only a brief understanding of the concept but was eager to listen to the music. So it's testament to the quality I've subconsciously absorbed what I think they had hoped to achieve when writing. Pelagial is in the truest sense a journey, the theme of the album takes you from calm surface like serenity to being plunged in darkness weighed by pressure. Along the way you experience different levels of melody, emotion and heaviness. Like the various depths if the ocean itself, riffs pull and weigh you down. At other times melodic flourishes, feel like the beauty and otherworldly environment that lies under the surface. It honestly is represented in the music and translates while listening which can't always be said of concepts. Due to other commitments I've been listening mostly in my car on route to work. Usually when reviewing, I do so with headphones and little distraction. The fact that Pelagial has impacted strongly on me musically and conceptually is a further achievement of its greatness. Although when I've had the chance I have also experienced it headphones on late at night.
The Ocean have produced probably their most cohesive and accomplished work here. Despite it being intended as a whole piece, any of the tracks could be taken individually and marveled at. It works best though from start to finish. Such is the strength of Pelagial I'm not going to single out tracks, or moments for praise. For a start there are too many to list, instead I urge you to take the journey with them. The Ocean have delivered a concept that is a metaphorical one, the themes, feelings and emotions felt listening can be attached to various facets of life. Either way its an experience I will be taking time and again due to the music and delivery.
Pelagial is destined to be one of the year's best releases. With a standard double album and expanded special edition with extra artwork and accompanying film available it makes it an essential purchase either way. The Ocean is released through Pelagic Records and Metal Blade Records on April 29th (EU) and 30th (US).
For those who are interested, read our interview with Robin Staps here.