I'll admit to a little trepidation when I approached “Sirens” by Oceanus ... an album due to be released on one of my fave indie labels - Hawkmoon Records.
This anxiety was due to two things:
1) I have no idea what post-metal is ... and
2) I wondered if it would be something I would dig to the same extent as their other releases.
I bit the bullet and put on “Sirens” ... I can honestly say I've not looked back since. I still don't know what this post-metal thing is that Tom Honey spoke of ... but I do know that this release is one of the most varied and imaginative I've heard in a long time.
There are moments of shoegaze ... full on rifftastic rock ... frentic metal ... bloodcurdling vocals ... and even the ebb and flow of post-rock. There are also moments of moving ambience and of sheer melodic beauty - the opening 42 seconds of “Nautica”, for example - these moments really highlight the musicality of Oceanus aka Rob Honey from Damn Robot! & Alex Fawcett from Arboretus ... they can't hide behind the fuzz afterall. This is the kind of variety that makes “Sirens” a very interesting journey for a listener like me ... a bit of everything and everything executed so very well over its 7 tracks and 41 minutes.
The first three tracks are the three parts of the title track ... "Sirens" ... a wonderfully progressive journey in its own right ... from beautiful ambience, emotive guitars & delightfully wistful vocals; to frenetic metal, chunky guitars and energetic percussion; all while retaining a central theme ... these three tracks are an excellent introduction to both “Sirens” as an album and Oceanus as a band.
From there we move to “Nautica” ... a progressive track that features tremendous melody, chunky riffs and some blood-curdling screams ... vocals that do genuinely grow on you. I'm not a big fan of these kind of vocals ... I'm more of a Death Metal fan rather than Black Metal ... but these vocals work in the context of the whole because of their sparing and intelligent use. By the point we’ve reached in the album, Oceanus have already proven they can sing ... this is simply an extra flourish ... another string to their bow, so to speak.
What I love about “Nautica” is around the 3:46min mark ... when you think the track is over then the delightful melody comes back to the fore and there is some seriously gorgeous eBow action on the go. I just love that bit ... it is something beautiful indeed.
The fifth track - “Ora” - is more metal-orientated from the outset ... with some big chords ... before the arpeggios start with scaled-back guitars and those wistful shoegaze vocals appear. The ebb and flow of this track is a delight ... moving gracefully and with ease between soft and hard, quiet and loud; Oceanus really demonstrate their abilities on “Ora” ... they are skilled and this is apparent.
The sixth track - “Theta” - is a short track that demonstrates Oceanus’ experience with more abstract, ambient soundscapes ... field recordings are morphed and manipulated over a steady percussion ... synths play softly ... giving the listener some respite before they plunge into “Waves” - the final track on the album and the longest at 11:40mins.
“Waves” is a belter of a track ... grungy guitars are played over a medium-paced tempo ... before a more melodic expression is found and those wistful vocals make another appearance.
In many ways, Oceanus have saved the best to last ... bringing their most imaginative and progressive track to the listener at the end. I see “Waves” as the culmination of an epic journey ... one that fades to a delightful nothing at the end.
“Sirens” by Oceanus is a belter of a release and will happily reside in the collection of most ardent post-rock fans. Fans of Hawkmoon Records will also appreciate the nuances of sound and the care that has clearly gone into crafting this record.
Recommended ... although I still don't know what post-metal is.
“Sirens” by Oceanus will be available from Hawkmoon Records’ Bandcamp site from the 30th September > http://hawkmoonrecords.bandcamp.com/ < Until then, enjoy a mix they've created: