As history methodically records mankind’s 21st century follies, the power of music to inspire, uplift and heal has never seemed more vital. Oceans Of Slumber have long been purveyors of a uniquely human(e) and emotionally fertile strain of heavy music; hewn from the bedrocks of arcane doom metal, visceral extremity and gothic grandeur. But as the Texan ensemble have moved forward, building an ever more formidable reputation for both live and studio work along the way, their collective desire to reach beyond the known and embrace the unfathomable has been clear to see.
Launched via 2013’s Aetherial debut, but truly blossoming upon the arrival of vocalist Cammie Gilbert for 2015’s Blue EP and the following year’s Winter full-length, Oceans Of Slumber re-emerge in 2020 with the weight of expectation bearing down on their shoulders. The result is Oceans Of Slumber, an album that masterfully redefines the band’s sound for a new era while bringing their conceptual core into sharper focus. Sonically spectacular and proudly melodramatic and yet vulnerable and intimate, these new songs represent the commencement of the next stage in this remarkable band’s evolution.
“It’s most definitely a new chapter for us,” says Dobber Beverly, one half of Oceans Of Slumber’s creative core, alongside partner and vocalist Cammie. “With the other half of the band either pursuing other ventures in life, in business or otherwise, we were left at a crossroad of sorts. We could either fold up and go home or take the opportunity to fully head into territory that we felt the most comfortable in. We decided on the latter.”
“Lyrically I wanted to speak in a more broad way,” adds Cammie. “I wanted songs that felt like anthems, and calls to action that stirred people up inside. While still staying true to my storytelling nature, I scaled it into landscape view in an attempt to bring others in. I know these experiences are not unique to only myself, and through this new view I wanted to connect with listeners over these universal truths and turmoils.”
Considering the widespread acclaim afforded to Oceans Of Slumber’s last album, The Banished Heart (2018), it should come as no surprise that Oceans Of Slumber is bigger, bolder and better still. From the oppressive grandiloquence of epic opener Soundtrack To My Last Day onwards, it’s obvious that the band have tapped a new, rich vein of creativity, as Dobber and Cammie’s songwriting partnership erupts into three glittering dimensions. Listen to the ornate and instantly memorable but dark and ominous likes of Pray For Fire and The Colours Of Grace and the renewed brilliance of the Texans’ idiosyncratic, instinctively progressive hybrid is obvious. Death and black metal still blaze away at the heart of the OOS sound, but Oceans Of Slumber showcases how majestically their music has bloomed, and how much these songs will inevitably resonate.
“This music is introspective and empowering,” says Dobber. “We removed some of the odder elements of the past and replaced them with anthemic and grandiose soundscapes. We’ve streamlined the things we’ve enjoyed over the years and also folded in the other influences Cammie and myself have, all the while allowing me to roll my Nick Cave and Diamanda Galas influences in! We’ve been spinning lots of Rebekka Karijord, FKA Twigs, Doyle Bramhall II, and things of that nature too. So it’s all in there.”
Although firmly entrenched in the melancholy and morose territory that long-time fans will expect, Oceans Of Slumber is unquestionably an album driven by a desire to forge connections between music and listener. Cammie Gilbert’s poetic but disquieting honesty is writ large across every one of these intricate monoliths to heaviness and hope; from the spellbinding A Return To The Earth Below to the shimmering sorrow of I Mourn These Yellowed Leaves, her performance is as mesmerizing and believable as her band mates’ esoteric virtuosity is compelling. If Oceans Of Slumber offers as much pain as pleasure, it’s because reality is built that way.
“Throughout my life I have struggled with stints of severe depression,” Cammie explains. “As my life changed and the roles I played gained more importance, it became critical that I addressed what was haunting me, brought it into the light and found a way to let it heal. I realized that everyone, in some way or another, is fighting a battle inside themselves. I didn’t want to think of myself as alone in this. I wanted to acknowledge honestly and straightforwardly that I have been broken, but I was going to find a way to make myself whole again, make myself healthy again. I needed help, and so I wrote about it and put it into the most broadcast place I could, my songs. As always I hope that these songs find a new home, a new place, and a new meaning to those that need them. I needed them, and I needed to let them go so that others could gain from them as well.”
Although forever shrouded in darkness, Oceans Of Slumber have constructed an endlessly fascinating and musically adventurous world on their fourth full-length. Their anticipated metallic onslaught is more refined and unpredictable than ever when it does appear, but it’s the new songs’ frequent detours into lush atmospherics, near-theatrical opulence and artful, askance songcraft that seal the deal. A riot of dynamics and instinctive side-steps, songs like the wickedly schizophrenic The Adorned Fathomless Creation and a closing, crushing cover of Type O Negative’s Wolf Moon are also blessed with a monumentally grand and immersive production. With all drums and Cammie’s vocals recorded at Southwing Audio in Houston, TX – with engineers Chris Kritikos and Mark Lopez respectively - and guitars, bass, keyboards and heavy vocals captured at Dobber’s home studio, Oceans Of Slumber grew from a passionate and purposeful team effort, and the impossibly vivid and vibrant results speak for themselves. A final mix by Edge Of Sanity mastermind and esteemed Swedish production guru Dan Swanö is simply the black icing on an extraordinary, grandiloquent cake.
“Dan was definitely on my list of people I wanted to work with,” Dobber notes. “I wanted him to do this record, for sure. There was something about the vibe of it that seemed so fitting. From back in the day with Dissection and Opeth to the work he’s done with Insomnium, it was a dream come true for me, and it was such a pleasure for me to have his feedback and have him enjoy the record so much. That’s a double payoff!”
With the planet in a state of mid-pandemic chaos, Oceans Of Slumber will be launching their new album into a changed world. No one knows what the future will look like, least of all for musicians and other artistic people, but one thing is for certain: heavy music will continue to inspire, uplift, enlighten and enrich, and Oceans Of Slumber are firmly and proudly at its forefront: the perfect progressive metal prescription.
“I believe we’re making the best music of our career,” concludes Dobber. “We’re also trying to find our audience and we’re realizing how difficult that is. It’s been hard the entire time. We just want our own place, to have our own audience. Time will make or break us.”
“This album is the full realization of what Oceans of Slumber is,” adds Cammie. “We’re dark southern souls. We’re passionate and emotive, violent and starkly beautiful. We’re trying to conjure those feelings and to have an impact on the lives around us with it. Music is literally the bond, for me and the world. I think it’s incredibly healing.”
~ Dom Lawson