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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Album Review: Oceanwake – Sunless

Oceanwake are Luvia, Finland’s finest and purport to play “arctic experimental metal”. Sunless, their follow-up to debut Kingdom, proves this to be an intriguing amalgamation of Katatonia’s black doom, Enslaved’s dark heart and ISIS’ brooding post-metal.

From the off, there is an assault of haranguing aggression that very quickly collapses into extended lighter passages of soft, mournful melody. This heavy-soft approach is supported by atmospheric, echoing vocals that segue from a deep, barrel-chested roar into melodic, mournful wails. Both styles are presumably attempts to lock into the crush-to-croon vocal gymnastics of ISIS’ Aaron Turner and Bryant Clifford Meyer and both styles tickle the interest without wholly fulfilling such an imposing brief.

Undoubtedly, the band intend to live or die by “The Lay Of The Coming Storm” because, at 15 minutes and so lethargically paced, it’s quite a ball and chain to throw at the listener off the bat. Lurking beneath all these bleak, harmonic minors the album’s odd construction continues to drop drum parts and underscore the weightier passages with shimmering melodics.

The band do hit their stride as they grow into “Parhelion” and “Avanturine”. The former provides a Machine exhilaratingly crushing finish of growled lyrics, “All we are is dust / Scattered to the ocean”, and the latter provides a shot in the arm with a classy sequence of powerful riffing.

Having undergone a 13-month construction process from conception to post-production, with the band recording at the wonderfully named Chamber of Isolation & the JonneMusic Studio, all whilst under the watchful eye of Korpikaani frontman Jonne Järvelä, it is something of a surprise to find weaknesses in the production and frailities in the album’s sense of direction, pacing and flow.

This undemanding album does need its own space to shine but it still suffers from too many disparate structures and just not enough invention. Whilst their peers explore the extreme depths of tone and texture, Oceanwake carry their listener far more than they engage them. Undoubtedly, Sunless is a solid album but, taken at face value, you’d expect “arctic experimental metal” to chill you to your core.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2015/03/oceanwake-sunless-vicisolum/
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