This is the tenth album from German progressive metal band The Ocean.
After the colossally good Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic and Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic from 2018 and 2020 respectively, can The Ocean continue their run of stellar records with new outing Holocene?
Yes, but in a different way than previously.
If Palaeozoic was the more experimental of the two Phanerozoic records, then on Holocene The Ocean have continued their trajectory and have pushed themselves even further into uncharted waters. Never ones to shy away from incorporating new ideas or trying out new sounds, this new record takes a synth-heavy, electronica-rich approach to progressive music.
Holocene is an album of intricacy and depth. It’s a slow burning album of subtle hooks and fathomless immensity. The album draws you inexorably in like a glacial whirlpool, ever closer to the music’s emotive heart, which is as potent as it is expansive.
Despite the layers of synth and the mood-driven ambiance, The Ocean haven’t given up on their heavier side, it’s just that now this heaviness, when it appears, is further embedded into the music as just another feature in its wide-ranging sonic landscape. There are less riffs, and more painting of musical portraits and shaped soundscapes. In this way there’s a stronger post-rock/metal feel to the album than a progressive or sludge one, although these aspects can still clearly be felt in places. Atmospheric progressive post-metal ambient? Whatever it is, The Ocean use it well to craft immersive music that’s subtle, but insistent.
Through haunting atmosphere, absorbing elegance, and emotive potency, Holocene is a record that seeps past your defences and into your life. Unobtrusive, but quietly powerful, this is an album that grows in stature and importance over time. It can be heavy and aggressive when it wants to be, but it’s largely a record of nuance and grace.
I’ll also take this opportunity to praise the guest spot of Karin Park from Årabrot on Unconformities, as her presence and performance is top drawer.
Essential listening for any fan of quality atmospheric music.