REVIEW: OCEANS OF SLUMBER – “The Banished Heart”
When it comes to attention to detail, Ocean of Slumber’s dedicated leader and monstrous drummer, Dobber Beverly, leaves no stone unturned as the band venture down a darkened path to creating their bewitching new album, ‘The Banished Heart’. Yet this is no one-man show. Much of the magic on ‘The Banished Heart’ is channelled through the incredible performance by vocalist Cammie Gilbert. The result is one of their best albums to date, and the perfect way to kick off the New Year.
Leading single and opening track “The Decay of Disregard” sees Gilbert casting her irresistible spell through a soaring powerhouse chorus, coupled with whispered, witching chants that leave you moved and a little unsettled. Whatever direction she decides to weave towards, she does so with a natural ease and relentless passion that is utterly captivating. Never more so than during the final moments of title track “The Banished Heart,” undoubtedly some of her best work to date, and a testament to her immense talent. Indeed, since joining the band, Gilbert has gone from strength to strength, wearing her heart and demons on her sleeve, conveying both through vocal performances you might well sell your soul for, just so you can hear her sing.
Musically, ‘The Banished Heart’ flourishes also. In playing and sound, performances warrant all plaudits. “Fleeting Vigilance” brings forth one of many impressive guitar performances from both Anthony Contreras and Sean Gary, while “At Dawn” will see lovers of the rhythm section drooling to find bassist Keegan Kelly, and drummer Dobber Beverley, blasting their respective instruments to their core. While the album does meander in places, as progressive sometimes does, and doesn’t always hit the mark, its meandering can also produce some equally interesting and surprising results. The interlude that is “The Watcher” doesn’t necessarily have a place here, yet it comes across as an alternative, or even complimentary piece to Stranger Things which, at the very least, is extremely entertaining.
If much of the beauty in Progressive music lies in its bottomless pit of hybrid possibilities, many who attempt this genre often get lost in just that. Oceans of Slumber might still be considered relatively new, but their painstaking attention to detail ensures they don’t fall too far down such rabbit holes, best illustrated by the albums closer “Wayfaring Stranger”. Not only does this track demonstrate multi-instrumentalist, Beverley’s, considerable talents outside the kit, creating a wonderfully melancholic atmosphere through piano and synth, it also recognises the band’s talent for simple and direct song writing. Stripped back to a simple glide of the hand along the keys,with an eerie and inspiring vocal performance from Gilbert, “Wayfaring Stranger” is one of the simpler, but standout tracks to be found here.
From then outset, ‘The Banished Heart’ highlights an attention to production, and it never lets up for the duration of the record. Like a punch from a velvet glove, ‘The Banished Heart’ strikes a beautiful balance between controlled, technical and structural chaos, while being courageous enough to rein it back in order to land a softer yet equally powerful punch. An album that commands your attention and compels you to listen, ‘The Banished Heart’ sees Oceans of Slumber producing what might already prove to be one the best Progressive Metal albums of 2018.