Today, I’ve decided to do something a little different; this is a retrospective review of an album that released a decade ago, close to the time I started TPM. The album in question is The Deadstation’s legendary debut EP, Episode 1: Like Peering into the Deepest Ocean Abyss. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the band is putting out a special anniversary edition download of the album on July 29th which will include three bonus tracks. Second, I’m feeling very nostalgic right now, especially since next year marks a decade of TPM, as well. Let’s dive in.
Back in 2012, I happened across The Deadstation. You may have come across them yourself since they have long possessed one of the best social media engagement strategies of any band. In fact, you may follow them and answer their frequent conversation-starting questions, and you may not even realize that they produced music of their own. The band back in 2012 consisted of Shjon Thomas on guitar, bass, and backing vocals; Ryan Mattheu on guitar; and Greg Murphy on lead vocals and drums. Guest Nathaniel Rendon handled keyboards. Now, I don’t think those are their real names, at least some of them aren’t, but we’ll just go with it.
At the time, I was only just beginning to think about starting an outlet for progressive music. I was writing for powerofmetal.dk and I think Progulator.com (doesn’t exist anymore) at the time, and I was also very active on progarchives.com where I was part of their Crossover Prog team. Anyways, I reviewed the album for powerofmetal.dk and progarchives.com, which you can read at the links I just embedded. My writing and reviewing style has changed dramatically, so it’s pretty difficult for me to read that old review.
Let’s talk about the album. I call it an album personally, though it is an EP, because it feels complete. It has a giant, swinging arc to it that feels satisfying and cinematic, and so it feels very much like an LP to me. This was only Episode 1, per the title, and it still makes me sad that we never were able to hear anything more from the band.
After talking to one of the band members recently, I discovered also that the album was originally meant to be over an hour long, and that there are multiple songs that were never finished. This special anniversary version resurrects two of those songs, and also offers a third remixed, longer version of a bonus track the band released several years ago. For that alone, fans need to hear this. One thing I wish is that these tracks were set into the actual tracklist instead of being put at the end as bonus tracks, but, once you hear them, you will understand why. It would have been impossible and would have ruined the continuity of the original release.
If you aren’t familiar with this album, the band plays progressive metal, but I think it’s a little more complicated than that. The band members had various influences from a wide range of genres, and that can be felt throughout the record. Their style is both ambient and kinetic, emotional and stone cold, brash and graceful. To this day, I don’t think I’ve heard another album that sounds like this one.
The title Like Peering into the Deepest Ocean Abyss is very important. It sets the stage for many of the ambient portions. I confess that these dark, inky segments along with the Everygrey’s In Search of Truth style voiceovers are what won me over at first. The band masterfully strings these deeply emotional moments together with high strung, ferocious metal portions that are fast, technical, and thrilling. Even with only a 26-minute runtime, this album feels like a roller coaster, but one that is hurtling through the blackest night towards the unknown. Of all the albums that try to capture the feelings of being in a void or staring into the abyss, this one does it the best.
And that’s exactly what I love about this album. I love how, one moment, we are spiraling into oblivion with blast beats and vicious vocals, and the next moment we are floating, drifting within ourselves. The album hits so hard at times, such as on the very heavy “Subsistence Defined”, but gently soothes us in others. One thing I noted in my original review 10 years ago was how wonderful the keys are. Nathan’s delicate touch can be heard throughout the album, even in the heaviest portions, and it adds such a tapestry of hope and light to the experience. I’m still impressed to this day how deft and also mature his touch is.
What I have come to appreciate more and more, however, are the other performances. The guitars on this record are brutal and biting, and Shjon and Ryan don’t hold back whatsoever. Greg’s drums, too, are absolutely astonishing at times with some serious technical footwork. So, in addition to mapping out an engaging story and emotional experience, the band had the chops to match.
I’ve analyzed this EP track-by-track in the past, but I do want to talk about the three new songs. “Here, But Not For Long” is one of my favorite songs right now. It is perhaps catchier than the EP as a whole, at least for the first couple minutes; at that point, it shifts into an ambient, shadowy final minute that I find highly effective. “Everything Will Soon Go Under” is an instrumental piece that is, for lack of a better word, happy. Yes, I am fascinated by this track because of the sheer hope and brightness of it, as that is a direct contrast to the EP. Now, I had heard “Limitless, Or So It Seems”, but this version is a couple minutes longer and also remixed. I confess that I never loved this song before, but this version is far superior. It is aggressive and unrelenting at times, but I love how calming the keyboards feel, almost like washing away the grit, especially near the end.
I suppose that is the tragedy of The Deadstation. There is so much talent here, and I’m sure, if the band had survived, that we might have gotten to hear that hour-long version. We are left with an outstanding EP that seems to jive even with listeners who don’t like progressive metal that much. It is an epic accomplishment to this day, and this special version simply enhances that. Be sure to get your free download on July 29th. I’ll be sharing when and where to get that when the time comes.
Find The Deadstation online: