Oceans Of Slumber - ‘Winter’ (Century Media) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Thursday, 02 June 2016 04:00

Oceans Of SlumberHailing from the historic city (well, as close as they get to that definition in the good ol’ US of A) of Houston, Oceans Of Slumber are a band who, according to drummer Dobber Beverly, “embrace the harshness of [their native Texan] climate, environment, people, [its] music scenes, and the pride there-in,” going on to describe himself and his bandmates as “kids of the ‘90s… raised on Stevie Ray Vaughan, King’s X, Watchtower, Pantera, Absu, Imprecation, etc.”

 

‘Winter’, the band’s second album and the first to feature the hugely impressive Cammie Gilbert (who we’ll come back to a little latter) is an album which is extremely hard to categorise - and that is its beauty. Referencing almost everything from free flow jazz through depression-era blues to the most extreme aspects of death metal, it is an album which very much fits into the “progressive” mien, in the very best sense of the term, as it is one which is very much forward-thinking and displays a huge ambition on the part of the band to push their own, and the genre’s musical boundaries to their logical limit.

 

A case in point is the band’s awesome re-interpretation of the Moody Blues classic ‘Nights In White Satin’. While retaining the song’s basic structure, OOS add in brutal blastbeats, courtesy of Beverly, and blackened death metal breakdowns from guitarists Anthony Contreras and Sean Gary, while Gilbert’s sultry vocal turns the whole feel of the song on its head, replacing the original’s joyousness with something altogether more melancholic and, even, morbid.

 

‘Winter’ is an album of massive contrasts and huge depths: the opening, positively epic title track, for example, would more than give the likes of Dream Theater a run for their money, with its beautifully timed changes of pace and intensity – the latter being something which is reflected throughout the remainder of the album. And then there is totally deceptive duo which heralds the end of the first quarter and the start of the second: ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Laid To Rest’ are moribund interjections of morose balladry, beautifully seductive, especially in Gilbert’s now ethereal vocal entrancement on the former and the lilting double-picked acoustic of the latter.

 

Both of these lead neatly and harmoniously into another of the album’s highlights, ‘Suffer The Last Bridge’, which picks up the laconic theme of the previous two tracks before exploding into life with a crunchy, driving riff which in turn evolves into a driving death metal blast, while Gilbert’s vocals float both over and under the instruments in a way which is both complimentary but counter-pointing, but entrancing in its delivery. Its overall effect is repeated later on the mighty ‘Apologue’ - an intense revisiting of the band’s black metal roots, (especially with the reintroduction of the death growls first featured on the title track) yet integrated with elements of the blues and jazz, especially in the guitar interactions.

 

As I said above, ‘Winter’ is, overall, and extremely progressive album, but one which does not fit comfortably within the generally-accepted confines of the “prog” school of thought. Nor does it fit comfortably exclusively within the death metal genre. It is an album which provokes the listener right from the very beginning, but does not confuse with the clutter with which many bands seeking to attain what OOS have achieved insist on cramming their grooves. It has a clarity of thought, direction and purpose, which in turn translates into a rich and warm album which is as stunning as it is challenging.

 

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To pick up your copy of 'Winter' - CLICK HERE