Earlier this year, Birmingham metalcore types Oceans Ate Alaska announced the identity of their new vocalist, Jake Noakes, following the departure of previous singer James Harrison. As is the case with most bands of OAA’s ilk, this doesn’t change too much of their musical DNA. Noakes’ cleans are less distinctively British than Harrison’s, but on their second album, ‘Hikari’, OAA still purvey the same kind of melodic and technical metalcore that made up most of 2015’s ‘Lost Isles’.
OAA’s MO consists of heavy, technical mathcore-esque riffing being paired with soaring vocal melody and metalcore staples like beatdowns. Often the tracks on ‘Hikari’ jump through these elements in a disjointed way. This is intentionally jarring and works for the most part – making even a shoehorned acoustic passage at the end of ‘Covert’ seem natural. In other places, they stick with one element per song; vying for early Dillinger Escape Plan-inspired insanity on ‘Deadweight’, or traditional melodic metalcore on the title track and ‘Birth’.
OAA try to keep things interesting, and ‘Hikari’ has the air of being more ambitious than the average metalcore record. The band’s progressive and mathcore influences are abundantly clear, but songs like ‘Hansha’ show a penchant for softness, with more expansive guitar work than seen elsewhere on the album. Closer ‘Escapist’ makes use of what sounds like a mandolin in its outro, which is a novel idea.
Unfortunately not all left-field ideas work – the nu-metal style rapping on ‘Entrapment’ is a minor flaw on an album that’s clearly attempting to be progressive.
Despite the vocalist change, ‘Hikari’ is more of the same from Oceans Ate Alaska. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as their existing formula is just interesting enough for them to keep their head above the water of the saturated generic metalcore sea.
‘Hikari’ by Oceans Ate Alaska is released on 28th July on Fearless Records.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)