If anyone has been watching the evolution of We Are The Ocean from gritty post-hardcore band to melodic alternative rock act then it’s no surprise their latest full-length,‘Ark’ is merely just the next step of their evolution. The follow up to 2012′s under-appreciated ‘Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow’ sees the Essex making the major label jump to BMG Chrysalis with mixed results.
The title track opens the album with a sense of grandeur, its sweeping orchestral strings and soulful female backing vocals complimenting the always impressive Liam Cromby. It’s an ideal opener and provides a decent enough transition from ‘Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow’ to a more alt rock-focused sound that the quartet explore throughout ‘Ark’.
‘I Wanne Be Your Love’ is a rip-roaring rock ‘n’ roll number with biting vocals and a soaring chorus. Whilst ‘Good For You’ is a blues-y number that instantly reminds me of Arctic Monkeys’ gritty indie rock sound. Here is where the first issue with ‘Ark’ becomes apparent. Whilst it’s admirable that WATO have expanded their sound on ‘Ark’, at times their approach comes off as formulaic and, in parts, unoriginal. For example ‘Shere Khan’ is well-layered and contains a memorable hook, which is great, but it also reminds me of Queens of the Stone Age. It’s not ideal for band who are seemingly trying to define a new identity.
Nevertheless ‘Ark’ does offer some shining moments. ‘Hope Your Well’ is a sweet and steady ballad-like number that thrives with Cromby’s warming vocals and sweeping strings. Whilst ‘Holy Fire’ is an album stand out with it’s intertwining guitars, soaring chorus and swirling, distant keys. Add to that the returning grandeur from the album opener, and you’re left with a powerful and effective track that is simply mesmerizing to hear.
Without a doubt ‘Holy Fire’ is the peak of what ‘Ark’ has to offer as the tracks that follow fail to build on its momentum. ‘Wild’ is your standard, punchy WATO track that will please longtime fans but slightly stands out of place amongst the bands new approach. ‘There’s Nothing Wrong’ is a lightweight jam that allows Cromby’s vocals to take center stage yet. Whilst ‘The Midnight Law’ sees them once again flexing their mainstream rock sound with bombastic riffs and crunching basslines.
The album limps past the finish line with ‘Remember To Remember Them’, a number that incorporates a classic rock vibe. With its stringent riffs, harmonized backing vocals and tight rhythm section, it closes the album on a warm yet uncertain note.
I had high hopes for ‘Ark’, and although it succeeds in fulfilling its potential, it’s not as consistent as you want it to be. There are far too many moments that come off as “filler” and aren’t as effective as some of the album’s stand out moments. I’ll admit WATO’s move to take in a wide range of rock-orientated styles is a bold move. At times ‘Ark’ is modern and at others classy, but it’s also raw and polished. Sure variation is a good thing to have but once you’re finished with ‘Ark’, you’re left confused as to who or what We Are The Ocean are now. Whilst ‘Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow’ was perhaps a career best, its follow up damages the band’s identity. The major label move is a somewhat easy target to blame, and I’m sure many will cite this as the reason for ‘Ark’’s uneasy output. Nevertheless We Are The Ocean have once again showed signs of progression on ‘Ark’ albeit ones with questionable results.
‘Ark’ by We Are The Ocean is out now on BMG Chrysalis/Hassle Records.
Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)