Oceans Of Slumber
The Banished Heart
Century Media Records
Texas extreme progressive metal act Oceans Of Slumber have returned with their latest effort, The Banished Heart. I originally reviewed the band for New Noise Magazine, though I am not quite sure why I am not getting any real responses from them and feel that I’ve been ghosted altogether. So here we are. In any case, I wasn’t sure if the band were even going to get this one off the ground, due to some issues that drummer Dobber Beverly brought up online a few months ago. None of those are important to this review, but made me unsure as to whether or not the band were going to be able to release another album on a label as prestigiously known as Century Media.
Alas, the label did decide to give them another go and they’ve definitely delivered a record much in the same vein as Winter, which shows that they’re not struggling to find a sound and have cemented it within realms of progressive death and haunting doom. The harsh vocals are also utilized more on this album, but not so much that it takes away from the haunting journey that this album is. What I found most interesting about this album is that it does feature several upbeat portions and drum blasts that help to increase the overall metallic edge and give it a sense of heaviness that will certainly appeal to a large group of heads throughout the world. The record certainly has its pop qualities, quite like something from The Gathering, Nightwish or Theatre Of Tragedy and it doesn’t even need to be referenced that Cammie Gilbert continues to “literally sing her ass off” with such a display of emotional passion that words cannot literally express it. It was difficult for me to listen to this record, as it felt that there was a real sense of pain and tragedy being communicated here, albeit slightly peppered by dazzling guitar solos and unexpected death metal blitzes.
Now I know that there are many of you who might feel that Keegan Kelly (who was the sole vocalist on debut Aetherial, so track that down if you’re curious – it deserves a reissue) deserves more lines here, but just relax as there are sections of bravado unleashed throughout cuts like “At Dawn” that will make the listener wonder if they’re even listening to the same band that began with single and album opener “The Decay Of Disregard.” I suppose the easiest way to describe this album is Mandylion mixed in with a slightly heavier version of Almost A Dance. As I expressed on Winter, this sophomore release is far heavier than you’d ever expect it to be, though it also contains some rather symphonic moments as experienced in the title track which can almost get to Disney levels of theatric. Interestingly, some industrial elements pop up on the disc too, so it is quite a mixed bag. An unexpected synth atmosphere entitled “The Watcher” serves as an instrumental break for the recording, recalling a score from Blade Runner in its neon-flavored futurism.
Interestingly enough, the label was able to pick out some of the record’s best pieces for use as singles, which includes the monument “No Color, No Light” with Evergrey‘s Tom S. Englund featured as a guest vocalist. This does not come as a surprise to me because he simply loved the band’s last effort and I figured that recording this piece was simply going to be a no-brainer for him. The band actually had a rather extensive tour with Evergrey as well, which helped them rise in popularity. Englund really took the band under his wing and I think they have a definite sheen now because of that.
Lastly, I want to talk about “Wayfaring Stranger” which is definitely one of the best, and certainly most haunting pieces on the recording. It’s safe to say that it is a completely different style for the band, with an electro-synth sense that feels completely removed from the rest of the album. Though it seems like something more akin to a side-project, it is definitely a powerful, moving folk-piece and seems like it may be used in an advertisement for a television program or possibly become an all-out theme song for a television program. When I hear this, I think of television and movies and know how marketable that companies will find this particular track. I also think that it will stand alone as a single, even though it wasn’t exactly marketed that way.
Whatever the case, The Banished Heart is proof positive that Oceans Of Slumber are continuing to further experiment and hone their already elegant craft, and that they aren’t going anywhere. I said it last time, and I’ll say it this time as well – if this album doesn’t perform well, then I will have lost faith not only in the heavy metal scene, but throughout the whole of mankind. By far, this is one of the classiest approaches I’ve heard in the genre and people really need to get out there and support it. I hope that larger retailers will carry it too, because this should be charting, it should be getting awards, it should be making rock viable in the United States again. The Banished Heart has substance, which is what so much music lacks these days, completely regardless of genre. To support it, means that you are a person of taste and want to see more tasteful approaches in the music industry, rather than the half-hearted approaches that we see all too often. There is an emotional beauty here that I just don’t think any other act will be able to capture for the rest of the year, which is why I also consider this album to be one of the best in 2018. Get your hands on it now.
(11 Tracks, 66:00)
Purchase HERE (Amazon)