Progressive metal is perhaps one of the more interesting subgenres of metal. Based more around songwriting talent and virtuosity than out and out brutality for the sake of it, the genre tends to utilise curveball elements to throw the listener’s expectations off completely and completely eliminate any pre-conceived notions. In the case of OCEANS OF SLUMBER, their surprise is vocalist Cammie Gilbert – a bluesy powerhouse of a metal singer who manages to fit the bill of both metal frontwoman and soul-filled chanteuse with apparent ease.
Opener Winter starts off as a mournful ballad, before a furious riff and crushingly powerful breakdown assault the listener seemingly from nowhere. This is progressive metal at its best – completely unpredictable and fully engaging to digest.
As if Cammie Gilbert hadn’t already been given the chance to show off her impressive range, a sultry cover of THE MOODY BLUES’ Nights In White Satin brings a hugely impressive level of emotion to proceedings. It’s honestly a fairly faithful cover, only deviating from the expected for a single fast-paced solo that just about manages to stay the right side of appropriately interesting. Elsewhere it remains a lightly-distorted cover that Gilbert uses to propel herself to the forefront and serenade the listener to an impressive degree.
Suffer The Last Bridge is perhaps the most interesting song on Winter. Brooding and emotional, it demonstrates that the band clearly understand when to restrain themselves and when to fully unleash. Staying mostly as a mid-tempo rocker it eventually gives way to a flurry of melodic but frantic soloing, courtesy of guitarists Anthony Contreras and Sean Gary.
It’s a slight shame then, that much of the momentum built up by the track is dampened by immediately following it up with an ambient interlude. It’s quite obvious what the band were doing with Good Life, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t work in terms of where it’s placed on the record, if at all.
It’s not all safe-sounding balladry and bluesy rock though – as songs like Sunlight and Apologue prove. The latter in particular stands out impressively, beginning immediately with a pummelling drum pattern and a far more metal-oriented style of riffing. Adding a touch of growled male vocals to the backing also serves to thicken the band’s sound, elevating
Closing track Grace is yet another curveball – completely devoid of vocals, guitars, bass and drums it simply serves as an exercise for keyboard player Uaeb Yelsaeb to show off his skills. It’s a strange way to finish the album, and yet it works incredibly well – especially given how diverse the range of styles has been throughout.
Winter is by no means a perfect album – it sags slightly in the mid-section and suffers from a few pacing issues as a result thanks to some arguably unnecessary interludes. What it is for the most part though, is a sublime and refreshing effort from a band that clearly have a lot to give to the metal scene. In Cammie Gilbert, they clearly have one of the most versatile vocalists in metal and it will be highly interesting to see where they go next.
Winter is out now via Century Media Records.
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