Oceans of Slumber – Embrace the Darkness Part I

Sunday, 6th March 2016

Humans are resilient beings – capable of great capacity for withstanding sadness, stress, and struggle to fight back stronger and overcome challenges faced for us. Drummer Dobber Beverly of Houston, Texas’ Oceans of Slumber understands this all too well – this sextet of progressive metal musicians having decades of experience through a variety of acts, and attempting in 2016 to improve their stature in a music industry where streaming services, downloading, and who has the most financial backing matters more than talent and quality control.

Winter is their second album, a stunner in the sense that you will get everything from doom and atmosphere to extreme screams, blast beats, and blackened riffing at times- while never giving up the melodies and harmonic hooks necessary to keep the material in your brain and body. It’s difficult to pin down one particular band they sound like – as vocalist Cammie Gilbert is a difference maker with her soulful, emotional, and versatile delivery.

In this hour long plus talk, you’ll find out what these children of the 90’s think about the metal scene, their open attitude towards songwriting, and the awareness that they have an uphill climb ahead of them to establish themselves in a world where the veterans are at a decidedly distinct advantage. It’s not very often that I jump through bands in conversation like Scattered Remnants to Crippled Black Phoenix, beyond the hundred other bands that passed through this talk – one of my favorites as of late. Read, learn, and make Oceans of Slumber a part of your permanent record collection.

Dead Rhetoric: You state in your bio that most of the members of Oceans of Slumber are kids of the 1990’s, raised on King’s X, Watchtower, Pantera, Absu, and Stevie Ray Vaughan among others. Tell us how the Texas musical diversity shaped your outlook on music and its application for the band?

Dobber Beverly: There’s an inherent Southern darkness in all of those bands. I guess the appeal of like dark, grandiose themes and mood overall, we are shaped from them. In the 1990’s, people can bring up things like Type O Negative, Sepultura, we mirror a little bit of all of that. We grew up with a lot of extreme metal out here such as Absu, Imprecation, things like that. There is the evil death metal that was here and prevalent early on, that has a shape and foundation to our sound- even though we mask it a little bit. Most of us as kids are (into) extreme metal in some form or fashion. Like with King’s X, there were things on Gretchen Goes to Nebraska and Faith, Hope, Love that had a sadness, the more serious songs spoke to Sean and myself a little bit more. Anthony was more into… all of us were into Pantera, because they were definitely big in the era we grew up around. An overall approach for what blues did for rock and roll, that’s how we took heavy metal and got into extreme metal. The Texas version of all that stuff just melded down into what we do now. An evolution with our interpretation, that’s what musical influences can do and that’s what turns out for our output.

Dead Rhetoric: The band started in 2011 – what can you tell me about those early rehearsals, did you have an idea of where you wanted to go stylistically, given that there are so many nuances and dynamics placed in your brand of progressive metal?

Beverly: When we first got together, we had done the final Insect Warfare tour, it was a resurgence type thing, but we shared a jam room. Once the bands around me dissolved, I was in a room with a handful of guys. Sean approached me about playing, for me I can’t not be active or heavily creative or I would die. We wanted to do something different, like Amorphis, Charon – a Finnish band, a very dark metal, straight forward kind of driving thing. He would send me a song and see what I thought of it- my approach changed the vibe of the song quite a bit. We would go through the track, he was excited, and he liked the high level playing within the band- he asked me if we wanted to just go nuts. I was heavily into Traced in Air from Cynic quite a bit, and he said we could go more into the Candiria, Cynic, a little more old-school death. I said yeah, no holds barred and let’s just go for it. We went from the first rehearsal going through that song and re-working it to the third or fourth rehearsal being let’s go nuts and be boundary-less in what we create. Within four or five months we had the whole first record written, Aetherial.

Dead Rhetoric: Cammie’s voice certainly is a difference maker to Oceans of Slumber’s appeal – as it’s more soulful and emotional than your typical Dream Theater, Fates Warning, or Queensrÿche oriented act. How did you discover her and where do you believe she takes the band that opens more horizons?

Beverly: We met at a fundraiser here in Texas. There is a benefit show, we were headlining it and her band was opening. When we got there we were unloading and setting up shop, there was this young lady walking around and warming up. I thought it was odd that she was out there singing- because she was a very well dressed black woman at a rock and roll, metal show. It didn’t strike me that she would be there with the band that she was singing with. They were like At the Drive In, post-rock, a decent band but I thought there was way too much voice for this band. She can use this talent for something else, so we stayed in touch. Our old vocalist Ronnie had met up with her, and we had a beer or two and talked about collaborations. Shortly after we did some pre-production work for some material that ended up being on Winter, and I had the idea of her coming in and doing a duet with us. And we got the roughs back to listen through, in pre-production a lot of times it’s to sort out ideas and put little finishing touches on things. Everybody around us outside of the band had heard these tracks with her singing on this, and they wondered what it would sound like to have a metal band with just her singing.

Ultimately from about that point on, it was a plan that she would step in and take over where Ronnie couldn’t, he was limited (with) time and his ability to travel. We just happened to come across her. Now what she added to the band is precisely what you say- there’s a strong delivery that she does have and the sensitive intricacies that she also possesses. That allows us to go into the more emotional style of the band. More and more European critics are realizing that she’s been appreciated for her talent- they are saying she’s the other instrument to this whole thing. She’s opened up the band to where it needed to be. It’s been cool.

Dead Rhetoric: Winter is the band’s second album – how do you feel about your debut Aetherial now in retrospect, and what were the songwriting and recording sessions like for the new record in comparison? Has more time together developed into a cohesive understanding of what Oceans of Slumber is?

Beverly: Aetherial – we are still extremely proud of this record. It was first contact for this band. We were trying things out, to see what we can do and what we couldn’t do. Turns out, there wasn’t a whole lot that we couldn’t do or wouldn’t do. There are certain abstractions that our music is going to have, it’s what we do. It might alienate some people in the future – Winter is going to alienate people that are really into Aetherial – but we wrote this record about six months after Aetherial was released.

Being proud of the record, of course we are. It’s a recording, a window in that time period. Now the band has morphed into what we are, for the most part. Everything (about this) is more mature, we got more time to know each other musically, we’ve known each other for ten to fifteen years. With Winter and the recording sessions, they were spaced out when we could get to them. The drums were recorded in three days, the guitars were broken up over a couple of weeks but the sessions went very quickly. The process was quick enough, the performances and what went into them were taxing, emotionally and physically. It’s a stressful record, the emotional connections are all there. It’s a more focused band and effort. I think for me I’m absolutely proud of this record. With this record everyone kind of outdid themselves, left everything out there on the table.

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