The highly anticipated album “Pelagial” finally hit stores around a couple weeks ago and boy did it hit. The album has sheer power in every aspect. “Pelagial” is The Ocean’s 6th offering and marks another major conceptual release in the band’s discography. The music for “Pelagial” was written and mixed as one piece intended to be played this way live. The album, originally an instrumental effort, follows the concept of traveling deeper into the ocean itself. As the album progresses, and The Ocean delves deeper into the depths of the ocean, the music becomes heavier, slower and all around sludgier and the production becomes less polished and refined. The lyrics, based on the movie “Stalker” by Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, follow the journey into the center of the mind and the explanation of our desires.
The big question that I had going into this album was simple. How well could the music follow the idea of descending into the depths of the ocean? The answer, very well. The music definitely has the feeling the band described. I think the feeling could be most accurately described as increased amounts of pressure and melancholy. As the album progresses, and the lyrics unravel the secrets of the mind, the music begins to feel less put together and polished and more raw and powerful. To me it feels like it is as if as the album progresses, the band is growing increasingly forlorn while water begins to slowly begin to seep into the walls of the vessel they are descending in, until the steel can’t bear the pressure and gives in. The repeating melodic ideas are what tie this piece together. Very similar rhythms, melodies and chord progressions that are repeated give the album a cohesive feel without being a cut and paste fest, though maybe more exactly repeated riffs would have been welcomed by me personally. The music, imitating the rising and falling swells of the ocean, sometimes suddenly takes a turn towards the lighter side or the heavier sludgier side. The perfect example of this is the outro riff of ‘Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny.’
Robin Staps really delivered with this one. The riffs and melodies are honestly fantastic. The Ocean have solidified their dominion of the niche they reside in with this. The perfect amount of attention was paid to the melody and brutality on “Pelagial’ and it shows. The album never feels one dimensional. By the end the fast light riffs give way to heavy chords and harsh vocals. Stapps tone again is fantastic. The bass is audible at some points so there’s that. The classical instrumentation is present again on “Pelagial” and I love it. Cellos have a beautiful tone, I don’t care what anyone says.
“Pelagial,” as noted above, was written as and intended to be an instrumental album and is included with an instrumental version of the the album with the full version. Listening to the instrumental version provides quite the different experience. Besides hearing the music as it was originally written, much more of the nuance of the album is audible. The mix of the instrumental version allows the reverberation of the drums and every line of the strings and lead guitar be heard. All in all though I think Loic Rossetti’s voice adds a lot to the album. His melodies and clean singer are definitely pleasing and his harsh vocals pack a lot of power. He brings energy and emotion to the music that I think lacks in the instrumental version that results in a more tedious listen, especially in the latter stages of the album. Basically the instrumental version gives a new perspective to the full version however Rossetti’s vocals complete the album.
Staps further defines his signature style with this release. The clean playing mixed with sudden distorted thrashy riffing is just one of his trademarks. The sludgy, pounding riffing found later in the album is the standard stuff that Staps has been delivering since Fluxion and Aeolian that have been a staple of The Ocean’s sound for years. The melodic chord progressions and guitar parts are better than ever before. The previous two albums, “Heliocentric” and “Anthropocentric” sometimes were too melancholic and maybe even whiny for some. “Pelagial” doesn’t have this problem. Whether this is because of Staps’ of writing style or Rossetti improving his vocals is hard to tell but “Pelagial” avoids any of the problems the two previous albums, released as a pair with little time between them, had. Some bouncy upper register melodic riffing brings a light hearted feel to “Pelagial” that represents the upper levels of the ocean well and I particularly like these riffs.
Overall “Pelagial” really delivers. The Ocean are at the top of their game. In my opinion, this is their best album. Yes, better than “Precambrian.” I dunno I just like this one more. “Pelagial” is definitely essential listening for this year. Below you can find ways to get a hold of this masterpiece and keep up to date with The Ocean. “Pelagial” gets a 9.5/10. Check it out.