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Oceanwake : Kingdom

Finland's Oceanwake have a debut whose attention, even to the very smallest of details, screams class. Serious class.

The opening riff for the album's second track 'Luminous Waves' has got a strange, hollow sound; a peculiar and interesting choice of electric guitar effect; vintage and yet somewhat futuristic, and this sort of modus operandi possesses the better part of the album. That particular 'tin-can' sound renders the album unique in that it might initially fool the listener into thinking this is some sort of Post/Atmospheric Hardcore in the Dirge vein, whereas the truth lies somewhere in the middle, between the album's Post-metal/Post-hardcore attributes and its downright Doom/Death metal facet.

Oceanwake will surprise you a lot; approaching 'Kingdom' with zero knowledge about that Finnish band and album, released by a small Russian label not particularly known for its arsenal of great releases, carries in its midst only an advantage. The low-to-zero expectations you'd approach it with, will turn the tides and make you gasp in awe or shock in the face of the distilled brutality and beauty of the compositions. And approach it you will, for you must, because this little gem contains some gorgeous and powerful music not often heard.

Oceanwake's 'Kingdom', the band's debut full-length album, is an ocean-centric themed album, an ode to the great bodies of waters of the world, the mysteries they hide, their beauty, their unparalleled force and apathetic cruelty. The song lyrics (mostly modest in quantity but high in quality) written in beautiful, semi-poetic English, are amongst this album's pillars, a fundamental key to the music's state of mind and its general 'mood'. Couple the brooding texts with photos of natural phenomena and desolate landscapes (all color-treated to look a bit surreal) in all their glory and might -- and you're already half-initiated and almost prepared to carry the burden of the album.

'Kingdom' is heavy; real heavy. Despite its ultra melodic essence and the many tranquil pauses it makes in the natural flow of the metallic barrage, the music is extremely powerful; tidal wave powerful; tectonic-plates-moving powerful; that kind of powerful. It's one of the few occasions where you can encounter music that is genuinely all-encompassing, devouring and gigantic in its engulfing, multi-dimensional expansion and energy contents.

Like a bestial juggernaut that is hardly contained, shackled yet barely restrained, threatening to explode and unleash tsunami-sized fury at any moment, so is the music on 'Kingdom'. You almost feel the tangible rage within the music that can hardly be contained; its refined desire to sweep everything into oblivion and wipe this fucking planet clean with a single watery strike. The Death metal on display is of the melodic kind, but the sheer anger and vitriol with which it is performed, renders those doom-laden death metal moments almost brutal, as in brutal death metal, sans the speed. Imagine Opeth's 'My Arms, Your Hearse' type of Death metal, only different, heavier and more cavernous in a way, and you're on the right track.

Like in the case of the aforementioned Opeth's timeless third album, 'Kingdom' is strewn with many introspective and tranquility-inducing passages, but unlike Opeth who had used mostly Seventies/Progressive rock elements in those passages of theirs, Oceanwake use atmospheric Hardcore as their tool of expression, and in truth that particular approach might be more well deserving and adequate when sonically portraying anything marine-related.

The emotional burden this album emanates and its quite slow velocity may qualify it as Doom metal-related, but only loosely. 'Kingdom' is both doom-oriented and something else altogether. It is way more advanced than the habitual doom recording, much heavier and much more deathly, in regard to its Death metal side of the coin. The exquisite balance between death metal and other, clearly non-metallic elements on display, is a modus vivendi of styles and aesthetics that has been elevated to a form of an art throughout this album, as you will not find one weak spot in this finely-tuned hybridization.

'Kingdom' is one excellent recording, behind which there's a whole operation that made sure every aspect of the album was being taken care of to the very smallest of details: the visual artwork, the lyrics, the atmosphere, the production, the song writing and the different styles and how they intermingle so effortlessly and naturally with each other -- it all screams class. Serious class. It took the band nine months to record 'Kingdom', and only when you listen to the album from start to finish, you begin to realize what took them so long, as it covers every brooding soundscape in the manual and it offers virtually a full spectrum of dark colors for almost every aficionado of heavy music, regardless of a particular style or genre. This was made possible by advanced minds and crafty hands that play accurate and elegant music, leaving nothing to chance, compromising not over matters of quality and potency.

So, if you are like the writer of this review, for whom that was the very first (and hopefully not last) encounter with this Finnish musical beast, we can conclude this somewhat pale review (when compared to the actual epic nature of the album it tries to describe) by saying 'Kingdom' is one of the best albums both slowed-down Death metal and Post-hardcore could have ever created. If Opeth's 'My Arms, Your Hearse' was to be seamlessly fused with Dirge's 'Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas', there is a chance it might have sounded something like 'Kingdom'. But that is really an inadequate comparison, as the wholeness and the grandeur of 'Kingdom' speaks for itself and stands-alone without any need for comparison. This epic album is in a league of its own; sheer beauty, joy and terror encapsulated in 54 minutes of pure aural magic.

Go and find this album today.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Carries I - ...And Kingdom Came, Chaos Ensued
2. Carries II - Luminous Waves
3. Carries III - Obsidian Tide
4. The Words Of Gods Lie Among Us
5. Aeon Trail
6. Come Forth, A Breaking Light

Duration : Approx. 54 minutes

Visit the Oceanwake bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-09-27 by Chaim Drishner
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