Review by Jason Guest
Even before it was conceived of as just an idea, Pelagial faced that mightiest of challenges, The Ocean’s own oeuvre. Having always taken an intellectual approach to their music and lyrics, their albums have consistently displayed the band’s collective ability. Their last two albums, Heliocentric and Anthropocentric (both released in 2010), were both incredibly dense affairs, their musical depths as challenging as their sophisticated critique of that old chestnut, Christianity. Matching scholarly acumen with consummate musicianship and genre-merging proficiency, those two albums set the bar even higher. The band’s evolution, however, has not always equalled their ambition and their works have always fallen foul of being either too dense, too convoluted, or too cerebral to be considered the masterpiece that The Ocean have always been pursuing. With Pelagial, it appears that The Ocean have done it again.
Their musical bounds have been pushed ever further, their mastery of and ability to incorporate numerous styles into their compositional grandeur is, again, remarkable. The structures and arrangements of the album and each individual track are as elaborate as they are subtly nuanced and dynamically striking. A multi-layered and multi-dimensional work, Pelagial takes the ocean as its central theme and so from the bitter blue surface to its unfathomable depths, the voluminous metaphor of the big blue wobbly thing that mermaids live in serves the band well in their expedition through the experimental and the progressive. Though they claim that the lyrics were an afterthought of sorts – vocalist Loïc Rosetti had problems with his voice while the band were writing – the performance sounds too well crafted to be a fortunate addendum.
Musically, they are pretty much flawless, but in the vocal aspect of the band’s sound, there are still a few creases and this is where The Ocean still need work. In being more like a treatise than poetry, the lyrics tend to diminish the impact of the album. Such an ambitious choice of subject matter, as it has for all of their works, has proved to be the one hurdle they are yet to clear. Besides that, there’s little to find fault with here, and it’s equally difficult to find a high point, a low point, or even a standout track. The reason is that Pelagial simply works beautifully as a unified piece from start to finish. Individually, each track is astounding; and collectively, as the next step in The Ocean’s development, this is astounding. As expected.
8.5 out of 10
- Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny
- Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses
- Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams
- Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibrated
- Abyssopelagic I: Boundless Vasts
- Abyssopelagic II: Signals of Anxiety
- Hadopelagic I: Omen of the Deep
- Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe
- Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance
- Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes