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Album Review

Since 2007's Precambrian, the Ocean has become increasingly conceptual. Two separate offerings from 2010, Heliocentric and Anthropocentric, had longtime fans in a quandary as to whether the band were visionaries or merely pretentious. Over two years in the making, Pelagial was originally envisaged by guitarist, lyricist, and band mastermind Robin Staps as a single piece of instrumental music that charted the seven levels of the sea — Epipelagic, Mesopelagic, Bathypelagic, Abyssopelagic, Hadopelagic, Demersal, and Benthic — by portraying their depths musically, from the surface where light enters (Epipelagic) to the murky, enclosed-in-darkness ocean floor (Benthic) where bottom feeders live. Staps was also influenced deeply by Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky's masterpiece Stalker, a work that charts the journey of three men through a bleak (presumably post-apocalyptic) landscape to a room where all desires can be fulfilled. Along the way, each individual must completely confront his innermost self and have it exposed, making plain the realization of our basest desires can have dangerous consequences. The extended metaphor here equating the levels of human consciousness with those of the most primordial element in the natural world is heady stuff for a rock record. The Ocean pull it off simply because they present it: they never ram these philosophical concepts down the listener's throat. In this 53-minute work of 11 continuous sections, the band careens through airy, melodic rock to knotty, dense prog metal to suffocatingly bleak post-rock with cohesive neo-classical interludes of chamber strings and acoustic piano. This is made possible by rigorous compositional acumen, communicative, expert, performance precision, articulate, painstaking production (Jens Bogren and Staps), and a beautifully balanced vocal delivery from frontman Loïc Rossetti. Despite the many criticisms he has endured since 2010, he is the perfect frontman here as he articulates the concepts and anchors a rumbling, physically turbulent, labyrinthine musical journey. His distorted vocals still allow for the lyrics to be understood and his clean vocals are not overly passionate but are quite expressive. He is both documentarian and active emotional participant. The music moves through the numerous chapters in the Ocean's previous history even as it embraces a new present and points toward a complex future. For those who prefer to undertake this musical sojourn without the intrusion of the human voice, a completely instrumental disc offering Staps' original version is included in the package as well, adding weight, heft, and an even greater multi-dimensional quality to this magnificent, wonderfully heavy, artful project.

Customer Reviews

An In-Depth Review of The Ocean's most fascinating album yet.

The Ocean's PELAGIAL Album Review
So, I’ve listened to these guys before. They’re good, I like them, but they’ve never really been a band I could listen to for hours on end. At least, that was true up until today. Now, I can’t stop thinking about their newest release: Pelagial.

I really don’t know how to start reviewing the actual music. I mean, it’s a concept album. So, the concept is important to the music. And the album starts off pretty mellow, on the surface, and there’s an option to listen to the album with or without vocals. I’ve only heard the album with vocals, but I cannot wait to give it a listen when it’s just the instruments. However, the lyrics fit wonderfully, given that the album’s concept is a constant sinking into the oceanic depth zones, as well as the psychology of our wishes and desires. To quote: “Pelagial […] is a concept album with the track titles referencing, in descending fashion, the oceanic depth zones. Musically, the concept is explored by sequencing the music such that it is increasingly dark and claustrophobic in emulation of the diminishing light and increasing pressure that comes with oceanic descent.”

Does that not sound positively fascinating? The concept is relevant to the name that signifies their collection of musical creation, to the individual listener, and musically reflects all of that, in addition to being freakin’ sweet.

But seriously. If you like progressive metal at all, buy this album. There are musical motifs that run through the entire journey, and really, I’d venture to say that much like the body of water known as the Ocean is a giant expanse that humans have divided into zones, this album is much the same. All one expanse of music, divided into segments, divided into songs in order to classify and categorize certain sounds and how they reflect just how far you’ve made it into the album.

I don’t think I have the words adequate enough to tell you how amazing I find that, and how carefully this concept album had to have been crafted in order to make music so resonant with everything they set out to do. It’s one of the most stunning pieces of music I’ve heard aside from Between the Buried and Me (and if you don’t like them, cool, The Ocean are a very different progressive metal, so don’t let that make you dismiss this band). Also. Two Bassists.

Yeah. Two bassists. So, that might have something to do with it. My favorite tracks are probably the Bathyalpelagial tracks (3, 4, and 5), due to the increasing intensity throughout that segment of songs. However, the transition from those into Abyssopelagic I is jaw-dropping. I won’t even mention how soul-crushingly heavy the last couple of tracks on the album are.

So, if you’re interested in progressive, heavy music, love psychological examination of the self (alongside some brief philosophy) in your lyrics, like The Ocean, or like the ocean, this album is almost definitely for you. If you hate lyrics, there is an instrumental version available so you should still check this out.

Best progressive metal album of 2013 thus far.

The Ocean has set the bar very high with Pelagial. I've been listening to this album, cover to cover for some time now, and can say with unwavering confidence this is the best progressive metal album of 2013 thus far.
The Ocean have almost created their very own genre with their perfect blend of a straightforward approach, and still dominating with the technicality and complexity of their musicianship.
Lyrically Pleagial takes you through all the layers of the ocean, and of the mind. Going deeper and deeper, and the album evolves as it passes through each layer, getting darker and heavier making you truly feel the emotions of poets soul. The vocals are without blemish. Finding the harmonious balance of clean and harsh/screamed vocals.
And as for the 11 songs that are just the instrumental doppelgänger of the album, just wasted filler? Hardly. Despite being vocally outstanding on the album, these instrumental tracts display so much more emotion that could ever be sung. Hearing the clean riffs, intricate bridges, and progressive nature of the album without ever becoming boring or repetitive, all whilst displaying the theme and emotion of the album perfectly.
This album, Pelagial, stands alone. An instant masterpiece and classic in my opinion.
Pelagial, is A Perfect Metal Album.

well worth it

i have been a fan of the ocean for about 10 years now. I have heard this album and it is worth every penny. i have my preorder package on the way


Formed: 2000 in Berlin, Germany

Genre: Metal

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Originally known as the Ocean Collective, before shortening their name to the Ocean, this forward-thinking ensemble from Berlin, Germany, was founded in early 2000 by guitarist Robin Staps, who soon surrounded himself with fellow guitarist Andreas Hillebrand, bassist Jonathan Heine, drummer Torge Liessmann, percussionist Gerd Kornmann, and a variety of individually specialized vocalists, including Nico Webers, Sean Ingram, Nate Newton, Thomas Hallbom, and Carsten Albrecht. Inspired in part by the...
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Pelagial, The Ocean
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Customer Ratings