In 2020 …And Oceans rose like Triton and gave us their first record after an 18 year hiatus. Cosmic World Mother was a momentous comeback, with tracks like “Five of Swords” taking fans back to their early years with a more traditional black metal sound. It wasn’t particularly experimental, which up until that point was the hallmark of …And Oceans’ music for their almost two decades long slumber. I remember speaking with some guys in the band at the time and they told me that they were comfortable with the sonics from their first few releases, leaving the experimentation behind, and that this would likely continue into their subsequent records. This newest record is very much straight forward symphonic black metal in the style of Cosmic World Mother, and frankly, that’s one of the reasons why it really works.
It seems these Finnish veterans wanted to really make a clear statement with their choice of first single. “Cloud Heads” is a blistering track that grabs you like a mid-winter maelstrom. It has heft, it has speed, it has a magic to it that takes you away from where you are – and that’s what good symphonic black metal should do.
“Cloud Heads” is completely representative of the entire record. Again, there’s nothing really out of left field here. This is a record filled with blast beats, melody, atmosphere and really loud guitars with tons of tremolo picking. The harder aspects of the record really mesh with the orchestral and in this found in songs like “Inverse Magnification Matrix” which is a cathartic five minutes or polar energy. This particular song, like many on this record reminds me a bit of Dimmu Borgir, especially the keys which immediately get me to recall the work of the great Mustis who was such an integral part of that band. The same can be said of the of solid “The Collector and His Construct” which is filled with lots of hooks and a jaw-dropping time change and melody that comes in about 1:18 into the song. Though 2023 is still very young, this particular cut is already on my list of the year’s best.
Another absolute gem on this record is “Within Fire and Crystal.” Perhaps it’s the scream at the beginning, or that really novel sound that comes out of the synth, but this is another clear winner as this Finnish sextet seems to weave in sounds reminiscent of later Opeth, Gaerea and lots of the great symphonic metal of the 90’s. The songwriting, time changes and structure works so well here. There are so many twists and turns that take the listener through something that is truly experiential.
I’m also pretty high on the album’s closer “Ambivalent God,” which gives the listener some full throttle speed for the first and leads to a number of different sections with unique sonics, all ending in a heavy, throttle laden dirge that features some amazing vocal work from Mathias Lillmans. It’s as if Lillmans is struggling and contemplating existence and humanity in a mess of affect and emotion-laden pontification. And that’s an overarching theme of the record. This a record about struggle, energy, enlightenment and what awaits us in the beyond. A contemplative record for a contemplative time.
Overall, I think this tops their 2020 comeback and I can only hope to experience these guys for many years to come. I know these songs will be on my personal playlist and these tracks are a perfect compliment to my existence in this frigid American Northeastern winter.
…And Oceans’ As In Gardens, As In Tombs is coming out this Friday, January 27.
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