02. Mesopelagic: Into The Uncanny
03. Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses
04. Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish In Dreams
05. Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibriated
06. Abyssopelagic I: Boundless Vasts
07. Abyssopelagic II: Signals Of Anxiety
08. Hadopelagic I: Omen Of The Deep
09. Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe
10. Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance
11. Benthic: The Origin Of Our Wishes
As we’re by now all well aware, Pelagial, the new record from Germano-Swiss metal outfit The Ocean, was originally imagined as an entirely instrumental piece. With incumbent vocalist Loïc Rossetti fatigued and unwell from touring 2010′s double ‘centric albums, the band’s composer and founding member Robin Staps took the opportunity to compose a record of ambitious magnitude; one piece of continuous music, conceived as a conceptual journey to plumb the depths of the sea.
As late as last November, however, Rossetti’s health improved, and after some tinkering, it was decided to include the diminutive vocalist and release two versions. Nevertheless, the detail required to compose almost an hour of instrumental music whilst keeping the listener entertained is immense, and so with even the quality of instrumental opener “Epipelagic” at being absolutely first-class, it’s fair to say that this aspect has been handled with consummate proficiency.
The primary notion, sonically, was to translate the increasing luminescent deprivation experienced the further one travels toward the Stygian gloom of the ocean floor. It would be easy to interpret that this might have involved starting with light prog and getting steadily heavier in timbre and tone, and whilst that’s true a a degree, it’s not nearly so pedestrian as that. Sure, ”Epipelagic” is light and twinkly, featuring a meandering piano, strings and harp, but at the other end of the spectrum, in the madness-inducing pitch blackness of “Benthic: The Origin Of Our Wishes“, the tempo slows and the mood turns to absolute sludge – yet there are still flashes of colour. Cymbals crash like the waves miles overhead; a guitar wails into the obsidian waters; a drawn-out staccato riff feels like the last tendrils of a suffocating mind. The pressure is immense, and feels weighted like a foot stuck in tar.
These gorgeous psychoacoustics are complimented by the secondary lyrical concept; a compelling, self-aware look into the human psyche surrounding desires, wishes and dreams. Were this a movie, the lyric “how much control do we have over what we wish for?” would be its strapline; and of course its connection to film is more than fleeting, as the lyrics were inspired by the 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky film Stalker. Intelligent, perceptive lines likes these litter the 53 minutes, and it’s a wonder that a degree in psychoanalytics hasn’t magically appeared in my hand as a result of the twenty or so times I’ve listened to this record in the past two weeks. This is of course hyperbole, and I may be biased as some sort of oceanic cognoscenti – I mean, I’ve dedicated a whole week of content to the band - however that’s the beauty of The Ocean; delving into the meaning behind what they do is well worth the time spent. Heliocentric and Anthropocentric crystalised this aspect of the band for me, but Pelagial further cements it.
As a group of musicians, they are a well-oiled machine. Staps and Nido work well in unison; the dual guitars each playing equally important roles in both big riffing and more delicate mood-building.The drumming of Luc Hess is marked in how varied and perfectly situated it is, and Louis Jucker’s bass really comes into its own in the low, second half of the album.
I am also a massive fan of Rossetti. Ill as he has been, his ability has not been affected, with both his roars and soaring cleans intertwining almost casually. The melodies, written wordlessly at first, fit the atmosphere like a glove; constantly shifting and flowing as it does.
Hell, the entire record flows, through various movements; cognizant sections of theme and melody, rather than songs – indeed, the track markings are more for financial and marketing reasons than anything else (eleven songs earns you more than, say, eight) – which simultaneously play on both the musical and lyrical concepts. This is never more apparent than in the first two songs of Bathyalpelagic: both use the above-mentioned lyric relating to our abilities so command our own subconscious inclinations, but you wouldn’t necessarily know they were “I: Impasses” and “II: The Wish In Dreams” unless you were really paying attention.
I’ll not fuck about with fancy words any more; this album is as fantastic as it is dense. The concepts are dense. The music is dense. The two hundred and something individual tracks, all mastered together as one single piece of music, scream density like being sat on by a bull elephant.
For all that, Pelagial is worth the investment. It sees The Ocean not content to sit on their laurels; three years has seen them progress beyond even their superlative ‘centric albums, and even undertaking an album of this ambition is noteworthy – but to pull it off too? Priceless.
Make sure to check out this whole week for more Ocean Week content; check the section below on every article for what we’ve done so far.
The Ocean Week content so far: