The Ocean – Heliocentric (Metal Blade Records)

Monday, 18th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

With broad, ambitious concepts that usually go beyond the atypical focus of the metalgaze genre, Germanys’ The Ocean always set themselves up for failure, yet usually emerged unscathed. The daring Precambrian from three years ago was hard left-turn from the usual post-rock/metal antics being tossed about at the time, elaborate artwork and all. From that, The Ocean gained considerable steam for their willingness to go for the conceptual and visual gusto. Well, they’re at it at again with Heliocentric, the first of a double album, that of which will be followed up Anthropocentric this fall.

The big change is new singer Loïc Rossetti, who lends a predominantly clean vocal edge to the proceedings. Frankly, his vocals aren’t enough to go nuts about, even though they change the trajectory of The Ocean’s sound. Of course, the band wasn’t able to pull off a piano ballad like “Ptolemy Was Wrong” prior to this switch, so there’s your “progression” for ya. Behind this is a concept detailing how the world revolves around the sun, tying in some religious discussion from Nietzsche as well. Perhaps that is why the band switched to a clean singer: so people could understand the friggin’ concept for once. Who knows.

Heliocentric doesn’t stick right away, as some songs like “The First Commandment of the Lumanaries” are a tough sell because of Rossetti’s vocals. The Ocean used to follow the Neurosis/Isis growls-to-no-end vocal template exclusively, so having Rossetti’s clean vocals loom over “The First Commandant” as well as “Swallowd By the Earth” and the twin-closer of “The Origin of Species” and “The Origin of God” is difficult to get adjusted to.

In an effort to break away from the typical metalgaze mold, The Ocean could very well see this move backfire if they don’t play their cards right withAnthropocentric. Make no mistake – mainman/guitarist Robin Staps has crafted some seriously sizeable chunks of music here (especially “Firmament”), yet it’s the type of career choice that oftentimes elicits the usual “they’ll never topPrecambrian” remarks and then the band is left in the dust. Let’s see what the future holds…

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