A Voyage into The Ocean.
Thursday, February 3, 2011 2 Comments
2010 was a crazy hectic year for me in more ways than one. Anyone who knows me personally would agree. So in a way, I’m glad I found such a crazy hectic mix of records that really caught my attention throughout the year. This next record was one of the most impressive offerings of the year, despite my initial regret I experienced after buying it.
Regret? Why would I spend all this time writing about a record I regretted buying? Well, this record was definitely one that ended up growing on me, a lot. I picked up Anthropocentric by The Ocean, or The Ocean Collective as they’re often referred as. I had decided to buy this album on almost a whim, the band was recommended by a blog I read, I checked out a couple songs on their MySpace page (looking up bands is officially the only reason to go on MySpace at all) and was immediately filled with mixed emotions.
Firstly, I was stunned by how beautiful the CD actually looks. It’s incredibly rare in the day of digital downloads that we live in for a band to put real effort into making a CD visually impactful. Well, The Ocean absolutely accomplished this. Both sides of the digipak are covered in an astral blue and gold finish with incredibly elaborate textures weaving in and out of the printed ink. When you open the case, crazy religious and astrological paintings cover the inside and you’re presented with this awesome fold out liner note poster, complete with thematic graphics and accompanying lyrics. For someone that constantly defends reasons to still buy physical CDs, I just had to touch on how well put-together this digipak was. What’s just as fascinating, is how thematically similar this album is to its sister-release, Heliocentric, released early 2010. With Heliocentric, the lyrics are presented on the backs of cards that are complete with various religious images on the opposite side. This absolutely blew me away, as this was the first time I’d seen a band take such a unique approach to their packaging. Heliocentric is a much softer release than this one, but if you were to shuffle the tracks of both albums, they’d fit perfectly together. I’m a sucker for reoccurring themes, especially when it comes to packaging. Even Chimaira’s similarly themed discs tickled my fancy.
The reason I was met with conflicting impressions is that the music didn’t quite catch my attention at first. We live in an age of “prove-it-core,” where so many bands aim to play as many notes in one song as humanly possible. So naturally when I found there weren’t any crazy screaming guitar solos or overly convoluted guitar riffs I was a little underwhelmed. In addition, the vocalist reminded me of the singer of Twelve Tribes, which I didn’t quite care for at first. It wasn’t until I was listening to this in the car with my girlfriend, and she pointed out that it reminded her of The End, which immediately opened my eyes to the appeal of their sound. You see, Anthropocentric is a lot of different things, but it all comes back to one word I can’t quite shake: dynamic. This record goes in a lot of different directions, and as a vocalist myself, I have to tip my hat to Loïc Rossetti, the band’s vocalist, for adapting his tones to go perfectly with the changing sounds of the album. I have to note, however, that I’m not a fan of his pentameter; I got the feeling that the lyrics were written out first and then applied to the songs. More often than not, syllables are spread out unnaturally, but maybe this is something only vocalists or poets would actually notice.
Anthropocentric spends a lot of time building atmosphere, meaning it doesn’t necessarily throw 20-30 different riffs in one song. It might, perhaps, spend quite awhile on a single riff, which I would actually like to see done more these days. “She Was the Universe” comes to mind, as it slaps you in the face with a heavy groovy riff, and constantly builds subtle intricacies over the top before transitioning into a smooth chorus that at times, reminded me of Deftones (Ironic, as I wrote an article on that band just a few days ago).
Another track that immediately grabbed my attention was “The Grand Inquisitor II: Roots & Locusts.” It’s a great mix of ethereal signing mixed in with pummeling grooves and almost Poison-the-Well-esque guitar work. I’d say all the different tones expressed in this track could sell you on this album alone. Go listen to it, now! As you’re reading this, GO! This song includes some of my favorite moments on the record, from the beautifully performed chorus to the devastating follow-up. The crushing breakdown after the chorus just makes you want to destroy things, as Rossetti screams “I too lived on roots and locusts,” you’ll want to scream along right with him. The song borrows a chorus from “The Grand Inquisitor I: The Karamazov Baseness” and transforms it into something much bigger. It’s very rare to see bands do things like this these days, where songs are actually interconnected, which makes it pretty astounding to think about how much preparation must have gone into writing this album. The third part of this trio of songs spaced throughout album is “The Grand Inquisitor III: A Tiny Grain of Faith,” which takes the album on a complete 180 by inviting female vocalist Sheila Aguinaldo add a haunting change to paint a crazy, almost psychedelic track that really compliments the musicianship of this group.
I can’t completely review this album without talking about its overall concept. Anthropocentric is the second part of a two-part album, as I mentioned earlier. Whereas Heliocentric is a critique of Christianity from different worldviews ranging from medieval times to Darwinists and Dawkins, “Anthropocentric challenges the views of creationists and other modern fundamentalists who still believe that the earth is at the center of the universe.” The way these two perspectives are told over the course of the two records is impressive, and those who often indulge in such religious debates would enjoy the validity of all the different sources referenced in these albums.
This isn’t an album for everyone, but for those of us that are looking for a little more out of the music we listen to everyday, I’d strongly recommend it. It definitely takes a few dedicated listens to truly appreciate where this album takes you. The pacing on this album is great, and I’d also ask that you listen to it all in order, for at least the first few records. For fans of anything experimental or progressive, I’d have to recommend this album. For those that enjoy anything from Mastodon to Opeth, from Tool to The End, Between the Buried & Me, The Mars Volta, or anyone looking for a new album to steal their attention for a complete 50 minutes, go out and buy this album. Buy the actual CD, the packaging is a great addition to any music collection.
Check out a few tracks from the album here: