Armed with a brutal sonic blueprint and rocked by multiple lineup changes in only a six year run, metal band, Oceano, has ridden the wave of deathcore towards the end of the 2000’s to present. Hailing from the Windy City, front man and vocalist Adam Young is the only surviving original member, hailed by over thirteen musicians phasing in and out of the band through three album cycles on Earache Records. Observed by many as the more brutal side to an already extreme subgenre of metal, Oceano bulrushes listeners with down tuned guitar domination and ferocious guttural vocals in a tenacious formula of extreme metal.
When I first started exploring the more extreme sides to metal (as stated in previous reviews), Oceano was always a band that was a recommended listen, riding coattails of groups who built their name in deathcore such as Carnifex and Ion Dissonance. Oceano was brutal, just like many of the others in the scene. However, with most trending subgenres, deathcore became oversaturated and eventually lacked originality when the popularity died down. For me, Oceano was and is still caught in that rift. Though their music brings the boom, I have seen very little glimpses of material that comes from unique directions in their discography that aforementioned bands and pioneers like Despised Icon haven’t already gone in. With that said, I am willing to give artists a second listen for the sake of second chances. After releasing Incisions in 2013, which was arguably the band’s most progressive release yet, Oceano is back with a new guitar player and a fresh single to promote their upcoming album, Ascension, in March. Dead Planet.
Dead Planet begins with a synthesized effect driven build up to a drum fill that cues Young’s vocals and a guitar assault. The riff transitions into the first breakdown of the song and eventually takes the drivers seat for pretty much the remainder of this track. The tempo of the riff riff slows down when that first breakdown ends, but by the time you reach the half way point of this track, brace for slow, churning tempos, crazy guttural vocals, and a side of breakdowns. The drum parts work well for the song, but doesn’t offer anything too fresh aside from blast beats and a warm drum cadence at the two minute mark. It took me a few listens to absorb the brutality and sort through the three and a half minutes of relentlessness, but it’s not that hard to understand Oceano’s mission statement… ceaseless brutality. Period. But, honestly, that’s kind of the fault in this track.
In high school, this music was appealing because I felt dangerous listening to something with intense novelty. I craved that perpetual insanity that went from start to finish and thought it lent more credibility to the term “metal.” When I began to further refine my tastes and mine the genre for more of what it had to offer, I found life in artistry that was more melodic, progressive, and experimental. Monochrome chug-metal like this doesn’t fulfill the thirst for my taste in heavy music like it did a few years ago (which was something well said by Youtube based music critic, Anthony Fantano aka The Needle Drop who touched on this when he reviewed the new Slipknot record late last year). My point is, when I listen to this track, I am reminded of why I eventually moved past metal like this. This kind of songwriting simply doesn’t have much to offer me anymore, other than a few moments of head banging here and there.
Metal runs the gamut of lyrical themes that often scare parents and wouldn’t be dinner table subject matter, though they can be strikingly introspective and constructive in a backwards way. I’m personally not one who finds a thrill in gore soaked imagery or violent narratives, however I think expressing anger in lyrics can be positive to a certain degree. Personally, I don’t need lurid maxims of anger and death to be satisfied with lyrics in metal. I like the ones that offer something for the audience to digest and think about. Dead Planet has more of an abstract tone that feels fantasy like, but doesn’t really offer anything. At best, I like that they don’t feel forced, plastic, or as if they’re trying too hard.
If there is anything that I can still appreciate about this kind of metal it’s the fact that it sonically retains brutality with a refined production quality. The down tune of the guitar tone in this song is unapologetic. It’s low, churning, and makes me want to crank it to warp ten on a set of speakers. The drumming quality can feel drowned out at times when back dropped to the guitar and vocals, though the double bass never fails to let up throughout this song. Now about those vocals… If you want classic exhales guttural fries,
Adam Young joins the ranks of guys like Whitechapel’s front man Phil Bozeman who pulverize tracks like these. This kind of vocal style is a staple in this kind of metal. On this track, the vocals are loud, shamelessly unrepentant.
After listening to this song, comparing, and navigating their discography, I think Oceano has made little progress in songwriting or direction. To me, this style feels one dimensional in the grand scheme of metal and gives me the impression that this band is timid in taking a musical risk. I feel like this song could have been much better if the last two minutes was not bombarded by one massive open chord. Though the song boasts solid production, I just can’t get into this song in the same way I probably would have five years ago. For what it is… it sounds like deathcore. If that’s your style and in your taste, not only is that your opinion that you are allowed to, but you will probably get a kick out of this track.