As expected ‘Ascendants’ is heavy. No bullshit. No frills. No fuss. At no point across the 9 track running time do the band ease up on the bleakness with simmering atmospheres cloaking themselves around an array of harsh riffs and battering drums. Vocalist Adam Warren puts in a daunting performance with relentless austere and resentful malice placing themselves pride and centre of his unearthly growl. ‘Dead Planet’ and ‘Dawn Of Descent’ prove to be the clear highlights with the former smashing out downtrodden guitar parts and unrivalled mortification and the latter hitting the perfect mix of ambient textures and guttural tones. This doesn’t stop cuts such as ‘The Taken’ having its own charm, oozing out unbridled misery on top of temple pelting beats.
Though things continue with the same level of bludgeoning animosity, the major gripe with ‘Ascendants’, and one that perhaps reflects Oceano as a unit, is that it all starts to feel a little lifeless. Doing things by the book isn’t always the key to success and the band continues to learn that the hard way. As devastating as their music is, there isn’t much substance hiding behind it all. There isn’t a unity or hunger to achieve more than just bog standard brutality. To push out of the murky depths and towards something truly special a band has to be more than bulky beatdowns, and at times throughout ‘Ascendants’ things end up sounding muddled and annoying. Double pedals appear where double pedals aren’t really needed. Low growls and even lower chugs are used for no other reason than to add another layer of passionless beef. Oceano just seem to be trying to make up for a lack of real focus and when there are bands producing heavy music at a much higher level with infinitely less experience than you, it makes for rather an awkward situation.
Overall ‘Ascendants’ isn’t by any means bad. It achieves everything that a heavy album should in abundance, but unfortunately comes out sounding like a bit of a hot mess on occasion. The intentions are good and proper, but the execution is at times sloppy and unnecessary. If Oceano are able to roll up their sleeves and pull on the reigns a little harder to hone in on the potential that is hiding there, they could make an album that defines their whole career and beyond. Only time will tell though.
Ascendants by Oceano is out now on Earache.
Words by Jack Rogers (@JackMRog)