…And Oceans – As in Gardens, So in Tombs (Season of Mist)Friday, 3rd February 2023
After a well-received comeback with 2020’s Cosmic World Mother, …And Oceans harkened back to their grandiose symphonic black metal roots. Having previously moved to an industrial approach (leading to a name change to Havoc Unit in 2005, which split in 2013, leading to …And Oceans reformation in 2017), the band’s ultimate return to their roots left very positive impressions. The follow up to said acclaimed return has been highly anticipated, and three years later, we have As in Gardens, So in Tombs.
For a band as eclectic as …And Oceans, one never knows what avenue they’re going to traverse. Overall, we have an album with a comparable vibe of its predecessor. Past industrial tendencies are in quantities; dominated by enormous symphonic arrangements and the band’s pronounced black metal ferocity. This is the approach to expect at this point, however, …And Oceans still have a few tricks in store.
Beginning with the title track, lush keyboards and buzzsaw guitars combine quickly to provide a blast to the senses. A piano interlude mid-song changes the flow, with a flurry of melodic guitars to drive the song to conclusion. These Finns aren’t messing about. “The Collector and His Construct” continues the momentum, highlighted again by a meshing of icy riffs and immense arrangements. Vocalist Mathias Lillmåns is ferocious in his delivery, giving the wall of sound around him presence and dynamism. “Within Fire and Crystal” slows to a more controlled tempo at times, giving the listener a necessary change of pace to keep proceedings unpredictable. “Carried on Lead Wings” is driven by a tasty guitar lead that leads to a mid-paced affair, while “Likt törnen genom kött” is layered with haunting keys and the occasional choir vocal passages.
“Cloud Heads” brings back a smidgeon of an industrial vibe, but only slightly in the middle of the song, surrounded by pulsating rhythms and bellows/shrieks that add a tinge of despair. “Wine into Water” again dabbles a little on the electronic side, tightly weaving with a slow and crushing approach that results in one of the more colorful songs on As in Gardens, So in Tombs. Old school Dimmu Borgir comparisons can be made on “Inverse Magnification Matrix,” with the hypnotic keys present being a high point. “The Earth Canvas” again brings the pace up a notch, while “Ambivalent God” finishes the album with an infectious lead that breaks into the most creative track here. Expect tempo changes abound, grief-ridden whispers and growls, and a gorgeous synth piece to close.
There’s a cohesion that can’t be denied on As in Gardens, So in Tombs. Everything that the band accomplished with Cosmic World Mother is present here, while progressing naturally in both sound and songwriting prowess. Where the band shines the most, however, is when they spread their wings and take chances, like on “Likt törnen genom kött” and “Ambivalent God.” A few more risks like that could have paid off even more, but what we have is a solid package. While Dimmu Borgir’s wheels fell off long ago, …And Oceans delivers a focused and well executed brand of chaotic orchestrations, while providing just enough spice and variety to please most appetites.