German metal band The Ocean took on the art of the internet concert in full-force this Thursday from Bremen, Germany, performing Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic from start to finish.
The Ocean are appropriately named: the deeper one falls into their sound, the heavier the pressure. From the shore, the post-hardcore group’s consuming intstrumentals and tendency toward intense vocal mixing might come across as chaotic, yet every force has an intriguing purpose. A name signifies layers of meaning and imagery, from an offshore perspective to the unknown depths of muted darkness, but The Ocean aren’t afraid to dig deeper with each step forward or through a journey back in time.
Broadcast from an eerie stage accentuated by dark red lighting, the opening track, “The Cambrian Explosion,” was a dark, twisting fall into the explosion of “Cambrian II: Eternal Recurrence.” Frontman Loïc Rossetti’s raging vocals follow an opening drum beat alongside distorted guitar. They were in full studio-mode, with a lack of audience providing the space to focus on rich, clean production.
The uneasy mood of the show lapsed into “Ordovicium: The Glaciation of Gondwana,” as the instrumentals built to match Rossetti’s intense vocal tone. The songwriting metaphorically compared the dissolution of Pannotia to a doomed relationship, as Rossetti sang, in a polished, though, grueling tone: “The cracks weren’t visible in the beginning/ Now we’re staring deep down into the guts of the earth.”
Most of the live show sounded, impressively, just like the studio record—with the exception of “Silurian: Age of Sea Scorpions,” which showcased an extended synth intro and outro. Full of beautiful textures, the performance featured softer but immense instrumentals.
“Devonian: Nascent,” an 11-minute work-of-art, is both a melancholy lament and a great example of slow, progressive-metal. Smooth vocals were underscored by a heavy baseline, which merged with an even heavier drum beat toward the end, building progressively before an explosive climax at the bridge. More surprises came with the performance of “The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse,” including an extended outro and transition into “Permian: The Great Dying.” The final track on the record ends on a sharp but characteristic note, holding traces of everything that sums up The Ocean: smooth and melodic, then abrupt and screeching, all while traversing the inevitability of Earth surviving as life dies, again and again. There’s a sense of cohesiveness, from the track-to-track connection to the consistency of each song’s live performance, all brought together in the last track and cut off sharply, leaving room for continued chapters.
Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic is marked thematically by Nietzsche’s concept of patterns, or the idea that time repeats itself on an endless cycle—and yet, alive and raw, The Ocean continues to prove themselves as an engineering force in progressive sound, constantly doing what hasn’t been done. Rossetti’s multiplex vocal melodies flowed with the strings and percussion throughout the performance, as if dynamically weaving in between parts that were never separate. The Ocean have broken out of the cycle; their immersive sound, consuming instrumentals and bold songwriting, will stand the test of time.