I love discovering new bands through live shows. Sometimes, a live show is the perfect way to experience an artist’s music for the very first time. I first came across Oceans of Slumber a few years back when they toured with Evergrey. Their live show was dark, jazzy, and very heavy; and I (and my brothers) were impressed. Fast forward to today, and the band has a new album coming out on March 2nd called “The Banished Heart”. Tom Englund of Evergrey guests on one track, and the band seems poised for a big breakthrough into the progressive metal community. The album itself is far more impressive than I was even expecting.
Oceans of Slumber hails from Houston, Texas. The band consists of Cammie Gilbert on vocals, Anthony Contreras on guitar, Sean Gary on guitar, Keegan Kelly on bass, and Dobber on drums, keys, and guitars. Signed with Century Media Records, I expect to see these musicians everywhere very soon.
Their music is primarily progressive death metal that is both technical and stylish. Cammie adds a heavy layer of jazz to their sound, but I’d also say that she has a dramatic and theatrical flair, too; not on the level or color of bands like Epica, but more melancholy and surreal. The band doesn’t really stay within one subgenre for metal, so their palette is rather refined, but their sound is fast and furious while also being moody and gentle. It’s a fine balance that they achieve well.
This time around, the band produces music that has plenty of space and ambiance to it, the kind that waits for the perfect moment to introduce that riff or to throw in that killer hook. Melody really plays a big part on this new album, and that is the main thing that will stick with you. You will certainly be humming the hooks for weeks.
The performances here are stunning, to be blunt. Cammie’s voice is one of the best in progressive metal right now. Her vocal style is jazzy, yes, but there is more to it than that. She can nail a solid hook like no one’s business, and she can play the texture and power game, too. Guitars from Anthony and Sean are gritty and dark, and Keegan’s bass fills the void with power and gusto. Dobber’s drums, too, are quick and gigantic in sound. His keys, though, are delicate and beautiful, and could easily be the most underrated part of their sound.
Now, I’ve seen a fair amount of debate online over Oceans of Slumber. Some can’t seem to reconcile the highly melodic vocal style with the fast paced technical metal, and I can understand their misgivings. However, I personally love it, and I feel the band is at their best during the fuller, meatier, slower riffs with Cammie singing at full blast. A certain atmosphere of rightness invades in those moments, and the whole band just comes together perfectly.
There are specific tracks here that come together sublimely. “The Decay of Disregard” starts the album off with slow, almost sludgy sound paired with bright vocal melodies, and it is a perfect beginning. The title track itself is a glorious track that is quite subdued and focuses directly on strong melody. I particularly like the delicate keys on this track. “A Path to Broken Stars”, too, is a pining and gorgeously written song.
The last three tracks on the album are my favorites: They make for an outstanding suite of sorts. “Her in the Distance” is an instrumental track that is all about wistful nostalgia and texture. “No Color, No Light” features Tom Englund, and is my favorite track on the album. Yes, I love Englund’s voice, but Cammie’s excellent delivery of the central hook is what really makes me love this song. “Wayfaring Stranger” ends the album with emotion and gentleness, though it may feel somewhat hopeless and lost lyrically.
Oceans of Slumber has really impressed me with this release. “The Banished Heart” is emotional, but in a melancholy and distant sense. It feels dark and artsy and somewhat theatrical, and just different from anything else out there right now. If mood and texture are important to you in progressive metal, Oceans of Slumber has the perfect album for you.