The Banished Heart by Oceans of Slumber (2018)

For the first time, and without serving as a precedent, I bring a metal band from the USA to the blog. I’ve never known what is it about American metal that does not convince me and why my taste is so focused on the Nordic sounds, but the truth is that it’s enough for me to hear the first bars of a song to know which country it comes from. The same thing happened to me when I listened to Oceans of Slumber for the first time, with one difference: despite being American, I liked it. I loved it. I’d started to play their last album, The Banished Heart, in the background while I was engaged in other tasks, just out of curiosity, and the music got my attention until I stopped what I was doing and started listening to it paying all my attention.

Oceans of Slumber has published, along with the one in question today, two albums. The band was founded in 2011 by drummer Dobber Beverly, so it is a young project. Therefore, the album is afflicted with the weaknesses that usually affect almost all debuts. It’s not easy to arrive and make it perfect the first few times, so The Banished Heart, although more focused than its predecessor, is the album of a band that is exploring and defining its sound, and sometimes it makes too many detours along the road to where it wants to lead us and seem somewhat lost. Even so, these weaknesses are overcome by the virtues of the proposal. The style of Oceans of Slumber is the most original thing I’ve heard lately, and already having such a strong personality at a stage in which most bands simply copy the style they like or their influences, predicts great potential to develop. The typical sound of progressive metal melts with the sadness and slowness of doom, the beautiful piano interludes, Cammie Gilber’s powerful vocal style and some subtle flirting with black metal here and there make The Banished Heart very entertaining and fresh . It’s also an album with a very strong emotional load (Dobber Beverly was through a the divorce and the birth of his daughter) and that makes things bittersweet: the music is expressive, but difficult to access if you don’t give it time.

As soon as the first track of the album, The Decay of Disregard, begins to play, it is clear that we don’t have a usual metal album. Here all the melodic part, which is a lot, falls on the voice of Cammie, while guitars, the instrument that is traditionally prominent in this genre, only serve as accompaniment, taking center stage only in certain sections. We also notice that the other element to highlight is percussion. However, this is one of the biggest criticisms I make of both this album and its live performance: someone should tell Dobber that the excess is as bad as the defect, and in these songs he frequently overdrums . The first track seems catchy and correct, without adding much more. The next one, Fleeting Vigilance, falls in the same ‘Meh’ category, with a more progressive and dreamlike touch and a structure that skips conventions, but what do we expect? This is progressive metal, not Evergrey‘s last album.

From At Dawn, things take off. The intro of this tune is one of the most beautiful of the album and the voice of Cammie sounds in a sweeter shade, although it doesn’t take long until the music progresses towards a much more aggressive section. And so we come to the first highlight, The Banished Heart. This is such a melodic and powerful song, with a mysterious atmosphere, where Cammie’s sweetest version shines again and the piano also takes center stage. I especially liked the solemn final section and its synthesizer ornaments. Given the evolution of the previous songs, I didn’t expect it to end in such an epic and enjoyable coda. And after so much emotions, The Watcher, a dark transition based on a synthesizer fulfills, without much to say, its aim.

Etiolation opens the new section as another iteration on the songs at the beginning of the album. The truth is that nothing about it caught my attention. Contrary to what happened to me with A Path to Broken Stars, which did have some novelties, such as new rhythmic structures and a catchy melody and a more impressive guitar work. Howl of the Rougarou opens with an acoustic guitar introduction and Cammie’s voice without any production. An interesting movement, which produces a strong contrast when the rest of the band begins to play, so that the transition becomes abrupt and would have been much better if the transition had been smoother. The melody, more doom than in other songs, is very enjoyable. Her in the Distance is another instrumental transition, this time classic, with a very emotional piano and synthesizer that gives it a more epic touch. And finally we come to the next hightlight of the album: No Color, No Light. A beautiful melody opens the tune that develops at a slow pace and the male voice, without gutturals, looks great in conjunction with that of Cammie. One of the best songs on the album without a doubt. And although the final song, Wayfaring Stranger, is very conclusive and serves to distend the atmosphere, I would have finished the album with the powerful No Color, No Light.

Anyway, although this work by Oceans of Slumber has good themes and points out ways, as I said at the beginning, it also has some problems such as excessive drums or sometimes being unfocused. I think this band is approaching the decisive moment in their career: the next album will be the one that decides whether they are a capable band or they lost in the mediocre pile. I hope it will be the first option. Until then, keep rocking.

Listen to Oceans of Slumber’s The Banished Heart, one of the best songs of the album
No Color, No Light, another favorite from The Banished Heart
Listen to the whole album on Spotify!

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