Are you ever surprised by an album from its opening note onward? It was in sheer amazement that I played Our Oceans debut self-titled album for the first time. Why you ask? When you take members of progressive metal bands Cynic and Exivious, and members of black metal bands like Dodecahedron, one doesn’t think to call such a collaboration “artsy,” “cheerful,” and “classy.” Their newest collaboration called Our Oceans is indeed artsy and lighthearted, filled with post-rock atmospheres, jazzy bass grooves, and alternative, clean guitar arrangements. No unrelenting blast drum beats, surprising time signature changes, or headache-inducing scream vocals to be found in this album, which honestly is quite refreshing. I believe you all will agree with me that Our Oceans is something special.
Melodic in nature, “Our Oceans” shows the lighter, softer side of these heavy musicians. Led by the mellow, falsetto voice of Tymon Kruidenier, this album takes the listener on a trip like a boat on a gentle stream. Having never heard Kruidenier’s clean vocals before (I mean, how could I have?), I thoroughly enjoyed his remarkable performance. His fresh voice has such great range and depth, sung with more passion and precision than anything I’ve heard him on. His voice is a crucial part to Our Oceans, helping to set the individual mood for every song, and providing a musical direction for the entire album. Even from the opening track “What If,” the listener is drawn in with his perfect performance in the song’s chorus and bridge section. One of my personal favorite “Tangled” also shows his meandering voice, how it floats effortlessly between instrumental passages and rises with the song’s high points. There are numerous moments where Kruidenier’s vocals shine, elevating the rest of the band’s play.
This is not said to take anything away from the remaining members of Our Oceans. Jasper Barendregt on drums and Michel Nienhuis on guitars also play a pivotal role in the album with their stirring orchestrations. Considering their backgrounds, the constant clean guitar rhythms of Nienhuis and Kruidenier are nothing I’d expect from them. The softer, chilling harmonic patterns of “Precarious” are breathtaking, while the inclusion of acoustic guitars in the final track “Reawaken” perfectly close the album out like a setting sun. Luckily the album isn’t entirely spineless, as both guitarists let some vigor out of its cage, especially in the song “Let Me.” In the meantime, the drum display follows the direction set by both guitarists. The mellow hits of high hats and snares are fantastic, but Barendregt isn’t afraid to let a little of his metal side shine as he passionately displays in the closing of the song “Turquoise.” The collective effort of these three help to push the boundaries of sound, resulting in an interesting and impressionable listen.
Of all the members of the band, I was most impressed with Robin Zeilhorst on the fretless bass. Not just a normal bass guitar, a fretless one. The audible difference in the instrument’s sound is heard from the start, with powerful, uninterrupted slides down the guitar’s neck. It is this instrument that gives Our Oceans its identity, the elegance and brightness of the album’s sound. I purposely turn up the volume to dangerous levels just to listen to Zeilhorst’s contribution to every song. The songs “Am I Still Here?” and “Illuminate” give space for Zeilhorst to improvise, while the song “Turquoise” places him directly in the driver’s seat to take control. I hope as Our Oceans continue to release more albums, they will yield more time for Zeilhorst to shine.
Even if its members were plucked straight from the depths of metal, Our Oceans is a soft, delicate flower in comparison. Honestly, I prefer this album over some of the members’ earlier albums. With a sound similar to bands like Mew, Vly, and Lydia, I would easily recommend any lover of rock to check out Our Oceans’ self-titled debut. Please support these guys by checking out their website, and by following them on Facebook for band updates. What’s next for these guys I’m not sure. I can only hope that a sequel is on their minds, because this album is fantastic.