Let’s take a second to talk about progression; or more accurately, the steps taken by many bands throughout their lifetime to enhance their sound and reflect their individual maturation within their sound. Some bands get “lucky,” where each release they make is a marked improvement over their initial dynamic, managing to please a majority of their existing fan base while bringing new ears onboard. Sometimes, however, the pathway to success and scene domination isn’t so cut-and-dry; I’m speaking of course in regards to Windy City warriors Oceano, and their turbulent discography. Oceano truly erupted into the heavy music scene with what is widely considered one of the best and most iconic deathcore releases out there: Depths. The good-but-not-great Contagion would follow before a brief hiatus that gave birth to the overwhelmingly…bland Incisions. While neither of these releases were disasters by any accounts, neither of them were able to escape the immense shadow Depths cast over a majority of the genre’s releases. Oceano were effectively victims of their own success, cliche as it is. “Were” being the operative term: Fast forward several years and the addition of three new faces, and the group are back with Ascendants, an invigorated and technical refurbishment of their signature sound. Ascendants is aptly named, as not only does it show the band ascending from the abyssal pit Depths dug for them, but it rises above and beyond, seating itself at the apex of Oceano’s towering reign over hard-hitting, hefty deathcore.
Ascendants‘ Oceano is a far cry from the Oceano that the listener is familiar with thus far. Instrumentally, Ascendants ousts the segments of eerie stillness Incisions was wrought with, and adds immense technicality and brilliant songwriting. The only tangible link to the listener’s preconceived notions of the band rests in the frantic percussion that serves as the album’s foundation. Oceano’s drumming is still among the best deathcore has to offer—from the lacerating machine-gun opening to “Nephilim” to the gut-shaking speed of the kick in “Transient Gateways”—evidence the band’s bold drummer hasn’t lost his touch. Everything else is all new; from bassist Chris Wagner’s writhing grooves and meaty tone to guitarists Scott Smith and Michael Kasper, who flip-flop between tediously technical riffs and prolapse-inducing heaviness with effortlessness and fluidity. The epic lead single “Dawn of Descent” was evident enough of this, however listeners who were still unconvinced can find entire hours of solace in Smith and Kasper’s furious fretwork in “Dead Planet,” which incorporates touches of technicality down to the very last chug. “The Dulce Incident” is another excellent example of Oceano’s ability to fit seemingly endless heaps of brutality and intensity into a brief track–as the not-even-three-minute track is stuffed with enough inventive instrumentation to give most bands enough fodder for an entire album.
To speak of Oceano, however, is to speak of the juggernaut that is Adam Warren. Warren is the harbinger of death—the very voice of all things hellish and oppressive. This was true from the first harsh bark of Depths, and it remains true throughout Ascendants. Warren is, to put it simply, at the top of his game throughout Oceano’s latest release. There is not one syllable of filler, nor is there a moment of melodious clean singing (for those that didn’t enjoy that aspect of Incisions). Ascendants is 28 minutes of Warren completely eviscerating the listener, tearing their bowels out through their ears in the best and most enjoyable way imaginable. Warren’s shrill, scratchy shrieks reign over “The World Engine,” peeling apart the listener’s eardrums layer by layer until there is nothing left. Warren’s highest screams sound like a pterodactyl getting kicked squarely in the nads—but for those that find them abrasive and unenviable, Warren’s growls are just as intense as they have ever been, if not more so. The closing bellow to “External Existence,” as Warren warns the listener “death is not the end” is one of the greatest and most aptly placed growls in deathcore history, bar none. In fact, the entire reign Warren has over every instrumental twist and turn on Ascendants warrants the same praise–hate it or love it, Warren is one of the most confident vocalists out there, and on this album (as he has with every other), he crushes the opposition.
If either of the above explanations of Ascendants‘ greatness aren’t reason enough for you to give 2015’s Oceano a listen, then there’s simply no helping you. Equal parts jaw-dropping musicianship and terrifying vocal domination, Oceano are a well-tuned machine design to do only one thing: annihilate. “Arc of Creation” sees Kasper and Smith weave furious, blazing riffs around a bastion of Wagner’s sturdy, bouncy bass—adding awe-inspiring beauty and bone-splintering brutality where it fits. Meanwhile, Warren rules over the listener with a heavy fist, sucker punching them squarely in the jaw with a cavalcade of sub-human, sinister vocal attacks on “External Existence,” and even sneaking a sinful growl on the album’s brief introduction, “Nephilim.” Every aspect of Oceano’s dynamic has been refined and rejuvenated for Ascendants, an album that showcases a band not just at the peak of their performance, but towering with immensity and an iron rule over the remainder of earth’s heavy music scene.
For Fans Of: Nexilva, Delta, The Oppressor, Whitechapel, I Declare War, Boris the Blade
By: Connor Welsh