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Oceans of Slumber - Winter

Oceans of Slumber - CD Review

 Oceans of Slumber – Winter

CD Info
Century Media
13 Tracks
English Lyrics

Oceans of Slumber, the American Progressive Rock/Metal Band from Houston, Texas, have released a new album titled Winter. Even though the band is fairly new, in terms of how long they have been together; this second full length album is their most ambitious. With a darker tone overall, one may be reminded of the bleakness that is often associated with the winter season. The musicianship is top rate with the instrumentalist showcasing their skills, whether it is guitar shredding solos, multi-rhythmic drums, or a classically played piano solo. Even though the band is known for their metal sound, this album expands their base into jazz, blues, as well as classical. Oceans of Slumber enables the listener to feel the emotional impact of the songs; especially vocally and instrumentally.

The band’s roots started in 2011, even though most of the members have been friends for a much longer time. Some were in between other projects when the idea of forming a band germinated. All the members have extensive music ability or education, which is quite apparent throughout the album. Previously the band self-released an album titled Aetherial in 2013. They also released an EP titled Blue in August 2015 through Century Media Records along with the present album. Check out their website for more information concerning other people who helped them create and produce Winter.

The band consists of six members, with several of the male members providing backup vocals, in addition to playing instruments. Oceans of Slumber include Dobber Beverly, who is the drummer and piano player, Sean Gray and Anthony Contreras on guitar, Keegan Kelly on bass, and Uaeb Yelsaeb on synthesizers. The addition of Cammie Gilbert on lead vocals completes the group. On their website, Dobber acknowledges that the addition of Cammie provided the glue that brought the band together to create their unique sound.

The album opens with “Winter,” which is also the title. This song is one of the longer ones and it has many parts to it. It goes back and forth between Cammie’s soft vocals and male metal growing ones. The song opens with synthesized chords and the female vocals are soft with some reverb at times. The drums are added with a standard beat, and a male chorus adds a nice touch in the background. After that, the heavier metal sound starts and we hear the first male vocals, with her answering. Later, Cammie takes over the vocals again, until we hear the first male growls. The female vocals become more emotional and the guitar plays under a vocal chant, which leads to a guitar solo. The male growls continue and Cammie enters again and we have harmony between her and the growls. The instruments become stronger and the male growls continue until a short chant occurs with both female and male vocals. There is a video for the song which can be viewed here. (Link 1)

“Devout” opens with synthesized chords that get louder before Cammie enters. The background changes to a sound of strong, heavy guitar, bass guitar, and drums which occur opposite of the lyrics. Then there is a rapid drum beat and slightly metal sound. The vocals are strong and the band chorus emphasizes the end of phrases. Male vocals enter with a semi-growl before the female vocals lead to a style change. The beat changes to a light jazz feel and the vocals are supported by oscillating synthesized sounds. This leads to an instrumental jam session with the lead guitar featured in a nice solo. The song returns to a rock beat until the end.

The cover song on the album is by the Moody Blues titled “Nights in White Satin.” This version is different than the original in style and key. Cammie’s voice is a perfect match for this song. The band changes where you expect to hear the harmony or group vocals throughout. Besides making the song have a darker tone, this version has a different rhythmic beat to it, which brings out the darker tone. They use harmony between the guitars where the original used keyboards and the bass part rises instead of descending. In the middle of the song, they change the rhythmic undertow which accentuates the vocals even more. This is an interesting version, and even though I am a fan of the original, (it was the theme song for my High School Prom), it works very well.

There are several shorter songs on the album that are like interludes between the longer songs and most of them are instrumental. The first one is titled “Lullaby,” and opens with the female performing a cappella. She is singing toward the upper range of her voice and in the second verse, she is accompanied by arpeggiated chords played on the guitar and supported by the bass at the end. According to their website, the melody has been passed down in Cammie’s family. Next is “Laid to Rest,” an instrumental song, that opens with the guitar playing a mournful melody. It has a mandolin effect in the middle, which is supported by a synthesized countermelody above it closer to the end, which leads into the song, “Suffer The Last Bridge,” which I will discuss later. Another shorter song is “Good Life,” which is also instrumental. This one opens with synthesized keys playing a repeated chordal pattern. Over this pattern is what sounds like a Native American flute playing a soulful melody. A nice drum pattern is played underneath. Toward the end, the song takes a slight atonal sound. An interesting instrumental song is “How Tall the Trees.” Simple chords played on keys begin the song, with a light voice doing syllables for a short period. This gives way to a darker, menacing synthesized sound that leads into the next song. The last song on the album is also totally instrumental. “Grace,” is performed entirely on the piano and features the classical training and abilities of the drummer Dobber Beverly. The power and beauty of the piano is featured with a strong melody and countermelodies. The song is quite moving and sort of reminds one of a piano concerto. It almost seems out of place in this album. This song would definitely be played at a classical concert.

Another song from the album, which the band has released a video, is “Suffer The Last Bridge,” that has several distinct parts to it. It opens with an open chord on the keys and guitars before the Cammie enters with power to her voice. This leads to a heavy rock sound played with the guitar, bass, and drums. Above that is the lead guitar playing a wailing sound. Cammie’s voice remains constant while the instruments become more raucous in their playing. Then the sound returns to the beginning before it changes to a more progressive style, and the vocals have a pleading tone to them. The interlude is a nice guitar solo before a slight reverb happens instrumentally and vocally. Click here to view the video.

“Sunlight” starts out softly and the vocals are warm compared to the other songs. Her voice has a bluesy touch before becoming more powerful. This leads to a more metal sound from the band, especially drums and guitars. The interlude has softer guitars before giving way to the synthesized swelling that is prominent in several of the songs. Then the strong metal sound returns before we have a call and response between Cammie and the male vocalists. The ending brings back the synthesized keys again. A similar song is “Turpentine,” which opens with guitar chords leading to the female vocals. There is a slight lilt to the song and Cammie bends some of the notes giving a slight jazz style. Her voice is dubbed with descending “ahs” before the song changes. Soon it becomes a blues song with some nice guitar riffs and there is some play between the vocals (female and male); and the instruments. Halfway into the song, the lead guitar takes over with an extended solo. Cammie has “oohs” over the solo and the song returns to the descending vocals. There are voices that diverge in opposite directions and the song ends with a nice Latin style beat before fading.

The song featuring the harshest metal sound of the album would have to be “Apopologue.” The instruments play a driving beat under the female and male vocals. Later Cammie voice sounds like it is coming from an “out of body” experience. We get a traditional metal sound with male growls and Cammie continuing her vocals. Male growls bring on a different instrumental style that is heavy on guitars, especially the bass. Midway through there is another guitar solo that is quite lengthy over the driving drums. Later, there is a back and forth between the heavy bass sound and a guitar solo sound. The heavy doom style metal sound comes back in a different style with a choral sound against male vocal growls. Another heavy metal sound that is choppy brings the band back to what we heard at the beginning.

“….This Road” is definitely my favorite song on the album. Not only is it very diverse musically, but it displays, in my opinion, the rawest range of emotions from both the female and male vocalists. Even the instruments (guitars), have a wailing sound to them at times. This song opens with a repeated piano ostinato. Female vocals are light, emotional, and cover a wide range. The piano provides a light countermelody and the second verse adds drums emphasizing certain beats. Additionally, there are male vocals added that provide some nice harmony. A guitar provides the ostinato that leads to some powerful male vocals that are just as emotional. The guitar changes to a heavier sound and more harmony is provided in the vocals. There is a lengthy interlude that is instrumental with a metal sound. Male vocals lead to a style change with a guitar playing the ostinato again. Cammie then enters with her powerful voice. She sustains the notes quite well and this leads to a heavier metal sound. Over this sound, the guitar provides a wailing sound. The vocals entering are just as strong as the instruments and the song gradually fades.

I have to say that overall Winter is quite interesting and pretty good. This album shows the growth of the band musically. The darker tone brings out the emotion of the songs whether instrumentally or vocally. There is a mix of almost every genre/style of music. The musicians are very good on their instruments and they show it throughout the album. Many of the songs have multiple sections and follow some basic classical forms, which keep the songs from being stagnant. Cammie’s vocals are top notch and she incorporates a wide range of emotions through many of the songs. This is a good album for those who like music that can’t be categorized into one genre. For additional information on the band, please check out the following links: