[Metal Blade Records, 2020]
Intro: Tasos Poimenidis
The Germans The Ocean Collective (known as The Ocean until very recently) were formed in 2000, and their first full-length album, Fluxion, was released in the distant 2004. From the beginning they were a sludge / post-hardcore band that stood out, both stylistically and musically, and due to high level of technique of its members and the progressive elements that grew from album to album. The only permanent member and leading figure of the band is guitarist Robin Straps, while over the years they have been consistent in frequency and quality with Precambrian (2007), Pelagial (2013), and Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic (2018) being highly regarded by their fans. This year’s Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic completes the loose concept of Phanerozoic I, and the singles showed that it is an album worthy of attention.
The strange and beautiful world of The Ocean Collective
It took less than two years for these talented Germans to return with a new album. The successor to the great Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic is here and it’s almost on par with its predecessor. Guitarist, main composer, and mastermind of The Ocean Collective, Robin Straps, continues to be one of the most remarkable musical minds out there. However, as in any collective that respects its structure, the de facto leader is not the protagonist but rather the director / screenwriter. Thus, with the same – now stable – line-up (the only new band member is guitarist David Ramis Åhfeldt) the scene is set, and it has many different protagonists.
The two obvious ones that come to mind after the first spins are the technical monster Paul Seidel (drums) who is one of the strongest cards on the record with his complex playing, and Loïc Rossetti, this passionate frontman who seems to be the ideal singer of Straps’ concepts, especially in the heavier parts of the record. Mattias Hagerstrand’s bass is crucial, which sometimes works as another rhythm guitar, and fills the quietest parts superbly.
The album brings out a very intense progressive side of The Ocean, in places much more melodic than their old works, something that was also evident in Phanerozoic I. If one tries to describe The Ocean, Mastodon and Tool will inevitably be mentioned. Although they are one of the main components (let’s not forget that The Ocean was one of the first sludge bands from Europe), these are not the only influences on the album (e.g. Eocene and Oligocene have nothing to do with the aforementioned). Sludge, progressive metal, post-metal, groove parts, and extreme metal coexist in a common musical world into which Straps and his companions guide the listener.
Straps’ lyrics, perfectly expressed by the very expressive Rossetti, and the guests Jonas Renkse (Jurassic | Cretaceous), Tomas Liljedahl (Palaeocene – he also wrote the lyrics), and Seidel himself (Holocene), are once again centered on topics such as philosophy and the emotional and mental world of the individual, while the song titles are rather allegorical.
The tracks that stand out are the opening Triassic, Jurassic | Cretaceous, which are also the most epic and adventurous in the album with many changes and quite elaborate heavy points, as well as the astonishing single Pleistocene with Rossetti’s voice and Dalai Theofilopoulou’s cello stealing the show in its first part, while the second half is one of the most amazing black metal (oh yes!) songs in recent years. The post-rock / metal elements throughout the album take the listener on a journey, a charisma that the Germans have always had, while the heaviest parts will make him headbang to their rhythms.
The album has no striking weaknesses, although the compositions are not exactly equally great. Apart from the more epic tracks, there is a shift to shorter durations, and despite its complex material, the album flows very fast, like its predecessor. The variety of instruments (cello, piano, trombone among others) and compositions will reward the listener for a long time. The old fans of the band found another album to love, and the new ones found another opportunity (along with Phanerozoic I) to enter smoothly and ideally into the strange and beautiful world of The Ocean Collective.
8.5 / 10
For more than a decade now, the Germans The Ocean have managed to establish themselves as a collective that delivers consistently quality releases to the European progressive music scene, with consistent and always ambitious prospects for their every next step, e.g. the giant epic Precambrian (2007), the two releases that followed (Heliocentric, Anthropocentric, 2010), or even the previous first part of Phanerozoic (2018). With the theme continuing to draw inspiration from geology, the second part unveils a further evolution of the Ocean phenomenon. As geological ages change, so do the moods and speeds. The album opener, Triassic, starts the melodic journey, and then the experimentation, the strings, the keys, the heavy guitars, the progressive glances through the post-meets-sludge past of The Ocean leave space for Loic Rossetti’s voice to highlight the compositions. The element that impresses once again is the quality of all compositions and the band’s unstoppable evolutionary course, knowing how capable they are of creating great albums. The change in the atmospheric direction of Phanerozoic II is also an element that takes its flow to the next level. From the impressive Jurassic | Cretaceous to Pleistocene the “geological distance” is a few tens of millions of years, and from Precambrian Phanerozoic I-II a decade or so; The Ocean manage to present a consistent continuum with the know-how of a band that seems determined not to stop surprising.
9 / 10