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Phanerozoic Live


Artist: The Ocean
Label: Pelagic Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 26 November 2021

Pelagic Records releases Phanerozoic Live, by German Post Metal/Experimental Hardcore band The Ocean. The combo was formed in the early 2000s by guitarist and composer Robin Staps; Paul Seidel is on drums, Peter Voigtmann on keyboards, Mattias Hagerstrand on bass, David Ramis on guitar, and Loic Rossetti on vocals. They have toured extensively since their inception – including Europe and North America with bands such as Opeth, Mastodon, Mono, Cult of Luna, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Anathema and Devin Townsend. This release incorporates 3 LPs or 2 CDs, a DVD and access to HD video download and streaming. The album Phanerozoic I was performed – with no audience present, mid pandemic – and streamed live from Pier 2, a large hall in the port of Bremen in March 2021. More than 1500 tickets were sold, the most successful show of the “Club 100” streaming events thus far. The day after, The Ocean congregated at Peter Voigtmann’s rural studio to rehearse and record Phanerozoic II – also in its entirety – which aired on April 2021 as part of the digital edition of Roadburn Festival (Redux). Whereas the first was filmed as a normal live concert, complete with stage show and lighting, the second is more intimate and focussed on musicianship rather than performance...

Piano and electronica gently introduces us to the Live in Bremen set with 'The Cambrian Explosion'. This segues neatly into 'Cambrian II' which throws us into an all-encompassing wide and heavy sound. It begins with guitar riffing, and warms us to the sound before unleashing the growled male vocals which fit like a glove. Periodically, distanced clean vocals float above the behemoth. Being over eight minutes long, the track has the opportunity to reign itself in to a light piano sound before plunging the listener back into the catchy, almost Goth chorus vocals. A great main opener. 'Ordovicium: The Glaciation of Gondwana' hammers us without ceremony into a full-on heavy piece with growled vocals for the untamed verses and clean vocals for the chorus and breaks. An edgy synthesiser buzzes at the boundaries and this is replaced by a guitar later on. It manages to be quite emotive at times – difficult considering the immersive nature of the song. A soundscape ends the track using low synthesisers and the sound of water.

'Silurian: Age of Sea Scorpions' has a riff-driven Prog opening, but heavier than you would expect from many dedicated Prog bands. This has a moderate pace, offbeat sounds and clean but expressive vocals. It suddenly unleashes with a heavier sound and growled vocals – making me sit up and take notice again – before reverting to its previous pattern. This is most definitely a blending of genres. 'Devonian' begins with atmospheric teaser acoustics, before becoming a fuller melancholy sound. This is more of a Progressive Rock feel with clean vocals. It has some twists and turns, but remains restrained. The growled vocals enter the fray late-on, just before a guitar break, and are very welcome. They suit the heavier sound that this track evolves into. 'The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse' is a much shorter track than most, making it suitable for single release but for the fact it’s an instrumental. Nevertheless, it’s a very good one at that, invoking simple themes and changes into the whole. 'Permian: The Great Dying' closes the first set with a guitar-motivated moderate track and growled vocals. The break in verses is filled with drums only, which is a nice touch. This has its curious eerie instrumental breaks which reminds me of Blue Oyster Cult. The quiet moments revert to clean vocals. The Ocean appears to incorporate the Goth Metal style more than any other.

On to the more reeled-back Live at Roadburn Redux set, and 'Triassic' opens acoustically with guitar and vocal soaring. Bass and drums introduce the song proper, and clean vocals reel-off almost without a breath. When the full-encompassing band bursts forth complete with reaching growled vocals, it’s so welcome. But this is a mixture of both in the Opeth style. This has a nice mystical feel to it. There is a clever stop-start into to 'Jurassic/Cretaceous'; however, it quickly turns into a semblance of a Prog structure which I can find quite tiresome. If not for the Goth retainer and the general slamming weight of the band at times I could lose interest. 'Palaeocene' has a moderate heavy beat but picks up the pace. This is easily one of the best tracks on show here. 'Eocene' has a nice guitar intro, but again the ‘clever’ Prog meandering raises its head. 'Oligocene' is a synth-driven instrumental. 'Miocene/Pliocene' makes what is essentially a Doom piece mystical in its theme. I love the stomping beat of 'Pleistocene'; it’s something really different in this context. There’s a double-beat fast break too. Probably my favourite track. We finish with 'Holocene' a rather unfortunate drab synth piece with which to end this release.

My opinion seemed to constantly change with every few tracks. By now you will know I prefer heavy and melodic content, compromise with the cross-over Goth Metal element, and lose interest with many Prog Rock sounds. On the whole, I enjoyed listening to this, but can’t imagine returning to it too often. There’s no doubting it’s a solid collection though, and the musicianship spot on.


Ty Power

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