Planets on album covers. They are becoming as familiar as bands labelling themselves “progressive” to mean forward-thinking rather than the retro-minded souls that you might expect them to be. Houston’s Oceans Of Slumber mean it in the sense that they dabble – i.e.; they are prepared to mash musical genres together to obtain a technically complex whole. The art of song construction has never been braver than here. Yes, a gorgeous gatefold sleeve with three planets to gawp at and an album that unites a grind drummer with a jazz guitarist and throws new-age prog and old-school doom at black and death metal. The result is an album that goes a bit Opeth, a bit Devin Townsend, a bit Enslaved then, at other moments, loses it altogether and heads off into Faith No More and Incubus territory. This is going to be fun.
The opening bars of Aetherial, the ragged minor chords of an acoustic guitar and the tumultuous bellow of Ronnie Allen, conjure memories of Mastodon’s Crack The Skye and Isis’ Wavering Radiant.
Otherwordly, dissonant, abrasive and vast, “God In Skin” is a crushing
initial blow with a huge dynamic range that stretches it’s gnarled
fingers into the starry heavens and the blackened beyond. And the
blacker the band go the more ludicrous they get. Elegiac maudlin becomes
raw pain pouring from “Primordial” before it just throws on the clown
mask and starts mono-cycling round the big-top. Oh and, yes, and if
you’re looking for your hit of Mike Patton head to “Blackest Cloud”
which lives up to it’s name and also goes a bit doolally, resulting in
the stilted playing of the American national anthem.
The vocals attack from many different angles. We’re offered up Dalek-like
gargling monotone for the line “Coffins in the sky like kites on
strings, dead things” which flips to a hollow, disembodied roar for
“Surrender, just go ahead and bow to me”. Move further into the album
and there’s an affected bluesy, melodious male voice vying with a
removed, echoing female voice. It’s a real bag of tricks this.
From the jazzy tech attack of double-kick and bass-heavy arrhythmia
that rips through the heart of the jarring “Remedy” to the wonderfully
straight-forward groove of “Only A Corpse”, Oceans Of Slumber clearly
don’t do patterns. You could jumble the running order up and be spat out
the other end with the same wide-eyed, slightly spaced-out look, having
been blasted with all manner of sounds, yet still clutching the same
few moments of joy. “Bleed me down to nothingness, fill me up with
emptiness” from “Athereal” and the last gasp Mitch Lucker-esque
“Cowards!” howl in “Coffins Like Kites” are my moments. Oh, and all of the staggeringly lush “The Great Divide”.
When extreme technical ability meets the songwriting minds of madmen you get an album like Aetherial.
Some will consider this self-absorbed jiggery-pokery; something to use
as a coffee-mat. Others will see this as the disjointed early etchings
of potential champions. “Is this a great blow to your minds?” enquires
Allen. That’s an affirmative, Captain.
Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/04/oceans-of-slumber-aetherial-self-released/