Ocean of Grief – Pale Existence (Personal Records)Friday, 3rd March 2023
Causing quite the stir, Ocean of Grief impressed with a shockingly mature and refined debut album in 2018’s Nightfall’s Lament. Putting forth a melodic death/doom style that hit the right buttons for fans of the genre, yet expansive enough to stand out amongst a well stocked cabinet of gloomy compatriots. The second album can be a difficult exercise, and five years down the road, the Greek bringers of all things downtrodden are back with Pale Existence.
A gloomy synth intro sets the table on “Poetry for the Dead,” making way for a sorrow-filled lead that gives off a Saturnus vibe. Lead vocalist Charalabos Oikonomopoulos puts forth a forceful low-register growl that provides suitable grit to offset the melodic elements, of which there are plenty. The clean guitar pieces amongst the slow march of Thomas Motsios’ drum fills is a fine tone setting highlight. “Dale of Haunted Shades” provides more emotive guitar melodies to go along with timely, crunchy rhythms, invoking thoughts of October Tide.
Third entry “Unspoken Actions” has a definite Insomnium influence within the rich harmonies out of the gate, differentiated by an obviously sped down doom aesthetic. The bass guitar is a quite prominent element in this track (and throughout the entire album), helping bring a low end that adds a flavor that many peers don’t always have. A guest solo from Enshine’s Jari Lindholm is also a fitting addition, considering the influence that band has had on Ocean of Grief’s overall approach to this variety of music. “Imprisoned Between Worlds” leans more towards the death metal side of the group, while still providing an overall sense of foreboding. Melancholic melodic death guitar leads dominate much of “Cryptic Constellations,” smoothly transitioning into the keyboard-drive atmospheres and clean passages of “Pale Wisdom,” all while bringing everything together in a fitting crescendo in the meaty yet misery-laden “Undeserving.”
The lush swath of poignant guitar work, courtesy of Filippos Koliopanos and Dimitra Zarkadoula, is impressively eclectic, yet precisely focused. From the heavy and grimy, to the sadness evoking, this duo knows specifically when these moments need to occur, showcasing maturity beyond the band’s experience. Let us not leave out keyboardist Aris Nikoleris, who creates a dreamlike soundscape that defines the sextet’s overall presentation.
Ocean of Grief collectively makes the right choices in a concerted sophomore effort. True, we broke down elements of each song individually, but what makes Pale Existence work so well is how the music flows as a single cohesive entity. All of the individual components come together with songwriting that is equal parts inspired and meticulous in detail. Moreover, Pale Existence makes one feel the emotions put forth, which makes the difference in separating the cream of the doom metal crop. At this rate, Ocean of Grief is poised to continue their growth into a long-term mainstay.