The Ocean
Precambrian

Ok, so there is ambitious, and then there is Germany’s The Ocean Collective….

Now on a label that is letting them release a double album (FluXion and Aeolian was supposed to be a double album), The Ocean have delivered a 14 track, 2 disc, 83-minute concept album (complete with lavish accompanying separate CD booklets) “based on supereon comprising the eons of the geologic timescale that came before the current Phanerozoic eon. It spans from the formation of Earth around 4500 million years ago to the evolution of abundant macroscopic hard-shelled animals”. (Thanks Wikipedia).

The albums, as per the Precambrian eon are broken up into 2 parts; Hadean/Archean and Proterozoic, then the tracks are each era’s subdivision (Though ‘alternate’ track titles are given). Hadean/Archean is a 5 track, 22-minutes mini album of a more direct, choppy and discordant hardcore that resembles Gojira at times (“Hadean”, “Mesoarchaean”) with angular heaving heft and Mastodon at others (“Eoarchaean”, “Paleoarchaean”, “Neoarchaean”) with eccentric, experimental off the wall riffage. Either way, despite being a solid set of tracks in its own right, it’s merely the appetizer for the simply stunning second disc, Proterozoic.

Featuring a slew of guest such as Caleb Scofield (Cave In, Zozobra, Old Man Gloom), Nate Newton (Converge, Doomriders), Dwid Hellion (Integrity), Tomas Hallbom (Breach), Eric Kalsbeek (Textures) and musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Proterozoic is quite simply the new bench march for the whole post rock, showgazer, Neur-Isis styled genre. It’s that good. The 9 tracks take the expected shimmering heft and introspective girth of the genre and add strings, a piano, orchestration, female vocals, programming, and a saxophone and none of it comes across as gimmicky or pretentious-just artful injection to an otherwise tired genre.

Even with an intro (“Siderian”) and outro (“Cryogenian”) that open and close the album perfectly, the remaining 7 tracks are sheer bliss. Standout moments include, “Rhyacian” with its simply huge mid song peak and backing orchestra as well as the sombre “Orosirian” with its rending strings. “Statherian” brings an almost metal lullaby like state to the proceedings while “Calymmian” gives us a dreamy orchestral density while both “Ecstasian” and “Stenian” (the military drum backed segment at 5:36 is just jaw dropping) start delicately before unloading huge, loping string backed dirges and rumbling transitions into massive grooves and climaxes. To be truthful though, the entire album is such a vast juxtaposition of amazing depth, precision and layered, experimental brilliance as well dramatic heft, each track is a standout really.

Even with quality releases from Rosetta (I actually thought Wake/Life was the very best album of this style this year until I heard Precambrian), Transmission0 and even Neurosis themselves this year, Precambrian is one of those rare albums I can listen to over and over again and stands as a monumental example of the genre and of simply brilliant music.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
December 17th, 2007

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