...And Oceans

Lately, much ado has been made regarding what constitutes the respective “waves” of black metal – in particular, the third wave. Roughly, among this “wave,” then: Mayhem’s Grand Declaration of War, Satyricon’s Rebel Extravaganza, Zyklon’s debut, and recent works by Dodheimsgard and Thorns.

Although keeping in line with Finland’s fine tradition of weirdness (Beherit, Impaled Nazarene, Amorphis, et. al.), …And Oceans have hardly been regarded in such ranks – until now. The Finns’ fifth record thus far, Allotropic/Metamorphic – Genesis of Dimorphism (AKA, AM GOD) finds the band on the precipice of grander ambitions. But keenly note grander: Despite …And Oceans’ “far out” reputation and Century Media’s patently patronizing push of this debatable fact, AM GOD is neither greatly ahead nor behind the aforementioned and, above all, hints at what could’ve been/should’ve been/might be.

Not necessarily inconsistent as it is too consistent categorically, AM GOD essentially takes the time-tested tenets of black metal – ambient blastbeaten speed, thrashier down-tempo shifts, screeched/rasped vox, and exquisitely chilled atmosphere – and shellacs them in a decidedly postmodern aura. The foremost element of this aura, Plasmaar’s keyboards conjure spectral shades of atmosphere that work on a similarly integral level as Crematory’s: elaborating the idea at hand through pristinely placed notes but never acting as mere ornamentation through washed-out chords (see the equally stellar “Tears Have No Name” and “Intelligence is Sexy”). Likewise, guitarists Tripster and 7even 11 (huh?) coax from their fretboards arid leads evocative of barren, desolate desertscapes, particularly on “Postfuturistika” and “White Synthetic Noise” – at times, reminiscent of the unfuckwithable Primordial or, further still, Rotting Christ.

However, in a more accurate sense, these elements are all too infrequent, and even though what is left is a fairly top-notch straight-up black metal record, it’s still just that – a straight-up black metal record – with a few “quirks” that, because of their infrequency, look more like afterthoughts. And the technofied closer, “New Model World”? Yet another afterthought, forlornly tacked onto the album to make the whole appear “weirder.” (Side note: Not that techno or electronica are inherently flawed – because they’re not – but when integrating influences from either genre into their respective sounds, why do most black metal bands just end up with something sickeningly close to those horrific 140 BPM comps, circa ’94? Why not integrate elements from Autechre, Squarepusher, u-Ziq, or Aphex Twin, stuff that’s infinitely more challenging and consequently more aesthetically compatible with metal? Word to the wise, folks!) Again, AM GOD is a fine record in its own right, but it’s much too across-the-board normal to deliver …And Oceans into the same spotlight as modern Mayhem, Satyricon, and the other aforementioned bands. Had the album been more schizophrenically inconsistent, perhaps it would be a contender in the twisted-genius game and subsequently better illuminate the path for new millenium black metal.

Sure, this all sounds calculated, but that’s precisely what makes those bands the leaders, not followers, of this so-called “third wave”: calculation. A trend it may be, but it’s certainly one worth supporting, namely because it points the way toward the future – at this point, …And Oceans are merely riding the wave.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Nathan T Birk
March 1st, 2001


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