Oceano

Contagion

Written by: BL on 02/09/2011 22:19:23

Oceano's 2009 debut album "Depths" was a monstrously heavy, almost imperiously so, deathcore album, but not just that, when it wasn't beating your face with a sledgehammer it had the eerie feeling like you were being submerged into a cold watery abyss (such an apt album name). More than a year later, the band had lost two members which could have ended a lot of other bands, especially considering Oceano lost both guitarists. However the band managed to soldier on and with a new full lineup, released a the followup album in "Contagion". It's inevitable that a completely new duo at the guitar helm no doubt has had an effect on the musical direction for the new album. At times you could be fooled into thinking it's the same Oceano from "Depths" - big, hulking, flashes of malevolence, but other times it was obviously like listening to a completely new band.

The impression after the first few tracks in "Precursor To Enslavement", "Viral Re-Animation" and "Regulated Disposal Of Life" is that, well is that it? The absurd heaviness seems so ordinary now in comparison, even pale when thinking of songs on the last album like "With Legions" or "District Of Misery". It's not so much that the heavy parts are not as heavy because the riffs are still edgy and caustic, there are still an abundance of evil dissonant breakdowns throughout and the drums still pound like machine guns. And if anything frontman Adam Warren sounds like he's improved and therefore more menacing as a vocalist. He still slurrs words when growling (though not as much) however he manages his range a lot better, shifting his voice more appropriately for some interesting dynamics here and there. The first obvious problem seems to me, that admittedly Joey Sturgis did a far better job of mixing "Depths" than Chris "Zeuss" Harris has with "Contagion", and in a way as a result the Oceano machine no longer seems so formiddable or intimidating to listen to. The guitars and drums do feel rougher here, which gives a more raw sound, but before they felt like impenetrable steel. As for the music, a couple of key areas seems to have gotten themselves lost in transit when the band changed members.

"The Contaminated" is the first song that kind of sticks its neck out from the monotony. It opens rather unimpressively mind you, but finishes better with a combination of punishing breakdowns, a slow burning guitar solo and a few groovy licks. The following track "Exist In Confinement" is the all instrumental on the album, and while if you stood it next to its older brother "Depths" (the album titled instrumental from the last album) it feels timid in comparison, is a stronger piece still in its own right thanks to a fine textured melodic progression with nice lead guitar play. "Persuasive Oppression" clearly tries hard to impress, but again seems too run of the mill and boring like a lot of other songs here to leave any real lasting impression beyond a token harrowing breakdown. "Weaponized" has short moments where it feels almost like "Depths" again, some simplistic ambience wandering into the fray for brief moments, but they aren't enough to stall the feeling that there isn't any real tension. The same could be said for late entry "Remnants Aflame" as well, a couple of noteworthy moments where Adam's voice echoes into the back to create a scary reverb effect, but when nothing else really happens the mood is too empty. "Ending Intellect" is far too underwhelming as a finale, as the same tired routine is played out until the album comes to a standstill and we are left more weary than ever.

Earlier releases like Whitechapel's "A New Era Of Corruption" perhaps has made me expect more from this genre. That album certainly has enough real venom and master craftsmanship to leave "Contagion" as nothing more than a mere bloodied smudge on the pavement. The main thing I liked about Oceano's last album "Depths", aside from the better production, was the soul consuming atmosphere constructed from smart ambient melodies which added a whole new dimension to their sound. Now though that is all but gone, the new songs feel less ambitious and more repetitive, making what is actually a shorter album play time feel a lot longer to get through. A disappointing effort when it comes down to it.

5

Download: The Contaminated, Exist In Confinement, Remnants Aflame
For the fans of: Whitechapel, The Acacia Strain, Impending Doom
Listen: Myspace, Facebook

Release date 17.01.2011
Earache Records

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