The Ocean – Holocene (Pelagic Records)

Wednesday, 14th June 2023
Rating: 8.5 / 10

For over two decades The Ocean (collective) has been plunging the depths of metal with a progressive determination. Swimming in the seas of post-genre and plying their skills to explore the depths of the abyss and the expanse of human experience within.

Their catalog is filled to the brim with explorations and high concept, and Holocene is no exception and serves as a fitting entry into their endeavors into mapping out the geologic time.

Beginning with Aeolian; a word which represents the process of wind eroding and shaping the primordial earth, this collective began to take shape. This shape quite literally stratifying on Precambrian, we begin our layer by layer examination of geologic periods through which they craft us a tailored soundtrack. The intensity and hopefulness wax and wane with the ages, and times of extinction lead to some absolutely crushing tracks. Not satisfied with that, they literally plunge the depths on Pelagial, continuing the concept approach, but this time bringing us down in a bathysphere to the midnight zone. Under the pressure of this ocean, we begin to hear some of the more somber sounds leaking around the welds of our proverbial submersible.

Phanerozoic 1+2 set the stage for our current sonic era. The synth soundscapes start creeping in and there is an undercurrent that anchors each of the concepts to their individual musical themes. Just as the ages of geologic time, the sound becomes less primordial and more complex as we progress. The closer track “Holocene” from Phanerozoic 2 docks up beautifully with the opener of Holocene: “Preboreal” and makes it feel like a continued elaboration on this most human of the ages. The intro evokes an ancient synth wave sound that I can’t quite place my finger on, but as Loic Rosetti says in the closing lyrics of the track, “we are not critical”, so perhaps that is fitting.

The second track “Boreal” sounds the trumpet of the fertile crescent and through what seems the chant of a fever dream we explore the roots of human tribalism. “Sea of Reeds” moves us forward in time to the idea of Exodus, where this tribalism finds purchase and mounts the world; the landscape of the track serving as a call and return monologue relating to human vanity.

“Atlantic” takes it’s time to build up a 5 minute electronic intro and then crescendos with the final three minutes into an amalgamation of novel and familiar sounds; “Subboreal” leans even harder into these elements and delivers a ferocious escalation of the same.

Fittingly, “Unconformities” is the greatest departure from the familiar, a stripped down electronic pulse pulls you in and sets you coasting into an ethereal collaboration with Swedish-Norwegian songwriter Karin Park.

“Parabiosis” is an introspective look back at our aforementioned human vanity, but this time taken through the lens of our quest for eternal life and vitality. Parabiosis is the process of fusing two organisms’ circulatory systems, which is an apt metaphor for the exploration at hand.

“Subatlantic” is a suitable end to this expedition into our most recent slice of geologic time. The musical space rises from a whimper to a roar while the refrain “Take heed, it’s getting warm, pay heed, to the alarm” is repeating itself again and again. The closing minute of this epoch cools down to a simmer and you can perhaps hear the buoyancy of hope within the final line “this is our new civilization, and the sun always shines bright”; then again it also serves as a tacit warning. The Ocean portends that the choice is ours to make as we enter into the time after the Holocene.

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