Ocean Here Where Nothing Grows

[Important; 2005]

Styles: doom metal, ambient metal, drone doom
Others: Sunn 0))), Earth, Sleep

Maine can be bitterly cold. Unsettlingly cold. Suffocatingly cold. I'm sure you get the point by now, but I'm just trying to make the point that with a wind chill whipping in from the Atlantic, Maine can be a veritable breeding ground for evil thoughts in minds trying to keep themselves warm. I guess the case in point here might be Stephen King...

But now King has a proper musical equivalent to aid in scaring the everloving shit out of the American public. Ocean hail from Portland, Maine, and they are purveyors of the subtle science of doom metal. To those uninitiated (or uninterested in taking the time), doom can come off like a sheet of distorted grumble that rumbles speakers and breeds headaches, but to those metal fans who have sought something darker and more disturbed in their lives, doom metal offers sublimely constructed symphonies of controlled aggression that can build to mind-altering climaxes, while still never eking the tempo above the crawl of a dirge.

Ocean charge (or should I say creep) out of the gates as a fully realized doom metal combo on Here Where Nothing Grows, their first full length. This is a genre more about tone than anything else, and these guys obviously pay painstaking attention to the sounds they capture on tape. The stomach-churning throb of the bass pulsates like the beginnings of the flu. Guitars alternate among exquisite feedback, precise notes, and growling chords. And the drums. Something that often gets overlooked with this genre is the overwhelming restraint with which the drummers operate, and here, Ocean have it in spades, with just enough kick and cymbal accents in there to keep the rhythm apparent in even the most sparsely arranged moments. If there's anything that doesn't work for me in the doom metal palette, it's the growling vocals, but this is a small concern for Ocean, as they appear only very briefly in the tracks and they are smartly placed low in the mix.

The attention to the sonic aura is obvious, especially when one considers that the band first recorded this album with an entirely different producer outside of Maine. After hearing the results and being unsatisfied, the band called in some favors and redid the album their way, with the assistance of Mark Bartholomew at Tsunami Sound in Portland. Back in their hometown, it's likely that they were feeling the threat of winter closing in on them, and that's apparent in the results.

1. First Reign
2. Salt
3. The Fall