Oceans of Slumber have been slowly gaining momentum and buzz.
Since the release of ‘Winter’ in 2016 they’ve moved away from their extreme metal starts to a more cinematic sound, blending melancholic doom with soulful vocals.
After a year locked away in writing, they have returned with The Banished Heart. Which they haver promised is a natural progression and step up from ‘Winter’.
‘The Banished Heart’ opens with a slow, dissonant and droning piano and synth leading into ‘The Decay of Disregard’.
The band start with a droning doom metal guitar led build which resolves into a melodic verse, which draws it self back just enough to allow their vocalist to provide her bluesy, soulful vocals to the track.
There is a blend of melancholic sadness to the track but the vocal delivery is cautiously optimistic.
The album’s strong point is how it is not just one hour of melancholic cinematic doom, but rather many raw emotions channelled into one hour of music.
Dynamically it feels like every direction the songs take feel like a natural progression.
There are moments of building intensity, manic climax, deep depression, and perspective.
The destructive riffing in songs like ‘At Dawn’ stick out so well because the song builds up into it, and take a moment to slow down after it has finished to allow the listener to digest what they have heard, and then fit in one last retrospective climax in the song that blends the quiet verses of the song with the extreme metal approach used in the bridge.
There are a few major elements to the sound of this album.
First is the band themselves. Their sound is natural almost as if the whole band was recorded all together with no studio trickery or overdubs, and every member filling a unique role to fill up the sound.
On the flip side, the other big element of this album is the synth, which fills up the sonic atmosphere when needed to add an extra layer of tragedy or doom to the sound. Whether with strings and piano, electric drones, or terrestrial sounds.
The dynamics and lyrics of ‘The Banished Heart’ feels like a natural progression which feels like a natural story in itself.
First approaching the songs which a dooming depression, before moving into a manic rage, then to a strange surrender, before finding resolution and a sense of hope near the end.
A part criticism and part praise of the album is in its sound design and mix.
The album allows itself to breathe, have brief seconds of silence to build tension, and to make the return of the full band, or introduction of synth to sound like a sonic climax.
One of my favourite moments was the opener to “Howl of the Rougarou” which uses a very old school blues production style to bring out the track’s Billie Holiday style melancholy and vocal performance.
However this style has a downside of being easy to interrupt.
When listening to this album while travelling on buses or near the sounds of the outside world, I found the atmosphere of the album was tainted by the sounds of traffic or bustling city streets.
This album is best enjoyed at home, or anywhere where there is little audible distraction. This can be seen as a good move by some as it forces the listener to really pay attention the to the album and everything that was put into it.
The Banished Heart is still an impressive and stand out record. It is dynamically and musically diverse, makes brilliant use of their vocal and instrumental skills, and rarely feels repetitive or adding in any filler.
Any fans of Oceans of Slumber will be very pleased with their follow up to Winter, and will be an album for any fans of Progressive metal to listen to.
4.3 / 5 – Cormac Jordan ::: 19/02/18