Before I start this I’d like to state that I am a fan of Oceano- and have been for the past 4-5 years. I remember discovering them when I was exploring YouTube, specifically when I stumbled across “District Of Misery”, and the first album of theirs that I owned was Contagion– an album that I remember receiving on my 14th birthday. I really enjoyed that album and I recall simply being enthralled at how heavy this band was, and how this latest addition to my expanding CD collection was affirming my newfound taste for more extreme styles of metal.
Despite my enjoyment of their music, the band has always been somewhat undermined by not quite having the upward career trajectory that you’d expect for an outfit that is now entering its 10th year. Whilst their 2009 debut, Depths, was a relative success in the then-burgeoning deathcore scene, the band has been mired in its fair share of struggles and misfortunes. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that Oceano has been plagued with an ever-revolving line up (featuring 16 past members to date), and a string of controversies in their formative years has really derailed their momentum- and perhaps their song writing. Since their well-received debut, the band has been subject to plenty of criticism for their subsequent releases: Contagion was panned for dropping the deathcore tropes for a more death metal angle, follow-up Incisions is generally regarded as one of the bands most maligned works, and recent opus Ascendants is seen with marginally less disdain.
If you’re not quite convinced that this is the consensus of the band’s output, then perhaps you should direct yourself towards Sputnik Music (http://www.sputnikmusic.com/bands/Oceano/12893/), where the bands back catalogue has been dealt with some very negative reviews and ratings (their best average rating out of ten is just under 6/10). These opinions aren’t just reflected on the internet forums, but also in their album charting and their touring. Their releases haven’t dominated the charts in the US (I refer mainly to the US Hard Rock chart), and their most recent tour has seen them play in fairly small venues (approximately 300-600 capacity) without tickets being fully sold out. Over here in the UK they haven’t toured in support of their last two albums- their last UK run being a tour in 2012 supporting Iwrestledabearonce in those same 300-600 capacity venues. A lot of musicians say that the live shows and audience attendances provide a more accurate indicator on a band’s popularity/success. If so, then this doesn’t bode well for the Windy City deathcore troupe.
It doesn’t help matters when you compare their fortunes to their peers and counterparts in the deathcore scene. For example, consider the quantity of Facebook fans they have, which is a reasonable measure of a band’s popularity, considering how the majority of people have a Facebook account.
While artists such as Suicide Silence (not pictured in the above graph), Whitechapel and Chelsea Grin have enjoyed widespread adoration, poor Oceano are seen as an afterthought. Even bands that have either been mired in controversy and scandal (Emmure, Attila and Rings Of Saturn), or have experienced some form of setback (As Blood Runs Black breaking up, Job For A Cowboy not touring their latest album, All Shall Perish being inactive), have done well for themselves.
Now, I don’t mean for this to be a rant about Oceano being rubbish or that they aren’t good enough, but as a fan of the band its an issue that is a cause for concern. Fans want bands to succeed, release great albums and tour aplenty, but this can’t happen if a band is left trailing in the wake of their contemporaries and hounded by critics. And it frustrates me how bands that perhaps don’t really deserve as much of the spotlight (I’m looking at you Attila) receive all the attention whereas the hardworking dudes in Oceano are often overlooked.
So where do we go from here?
Having seen the damage done, and looked a little at the causes for it, I think that there is one glaring solution to some of these problems. Put simply, they need to release a great album- one that will win over fans and doubters alike, facilitate touring in larger venues, as well as garner a respectable reputation. But what needs to be done in order to craft a great Oceano album? In my own opinion, I think that there are five essential areas to look at, in order to save the band:
Use Adam Warren’s Vocal Range
Across the previous four albums the band has produced, main man Adam Warren has proven that he is a highly adept vocalist. His deep, guttural growls are absolutely punishing, and his higher pitched screams can strip flesh from bone- these capabilities can be used to effectively compliment or contrast whatever the rest of the band does. Not to mention he can also sing too (on single “Slow Murder” from 2013’s Incisions) which hopefully could introduce an atmospheric element to the music. Warren also can write pretty interesting lyrics, with albums such as Contagion and Ascendants showcasing his knack for narratives or themes/concepts.
Combine Deathcore With Another Genre
Oceano have always been a band with one foot firmly planted in the musical parameters of deathcore. However, this isn’t 2009, and so simply playing your bog-standard, run-of-the-mill deathcore fare isn’t to win any new fans or revolutionise metal as we know it. All the deathcore bands that have garnered praise have blended their template of breakdowns and blastbeats with another genre of metal: Carnifex have looked to black metal on Die Without Hope, Fallujah suffuse their riffs with oodles of atmosphere, Job For A Cowboy have shown a growing progressive influence, Black Tongue have taken inspiration from doom- it stands to reason that Oceano should do the same. Whether its hardcore, thrash, tech, black metal or grindcore, the band should look to one of these styles and the bands that pioneered them, so that new ideas and approaches to music are brought into the fold.
Write Interesting Songs
I’ve always felt that if there is a weakness to Oceano, it has to be the guitars and bass. The overwhelming use of breakdowns and the ‘brown chord’ (a discordant and ugly chord sound) can make albums, and even short songs, become grating, sluggish, and an endurance to listen to- I know these are traits of deathcore, but they’re not compulsory. Riffs and compositions should ideally be geared toward memorable song writing, rather than being the most brutal band around. This would be aided by using the bass as a melodic instrument, with their own distinctive and tuneful parts, rather than just using it just to thicken up the guitars or for bass drops.
Show Consideration With The Drums
It might just be me, but it seems as though a Oceano drummer only has two settings: blast relentlessly or play a simple part for the breakdown. Although this has proven effective thus far, it would make for an engaging listen if there was more variety in the drumming used. Using different percussion instruments, developing drumming patterns/rhythms, or exploring a range of timings/time signatures would make the bands songs a little more textured.
Once It Works, Stick With It
Over the course of the last 7 years the band has jumped between being a deathcore band, a death metal band, or something between the two. Once they’ve established a sound, and therefore an identity, from the following points I’ve made, they need to stick to their guns with it. This will be greatly helped if the current line up stays this way for the foreseeable future so that the same songwriters feature in any upcoming material. The inconsistency between releases has probably been a major factor in unsettling their fan base, so as soon as they’ve found a new sound that they’re comfortable with then it would be best for them to hang on to it- and from there to branch out on further releases.
What do you think? Was I wrong to assume everything isn’t looking well for the band? Should Oceano try something else instead of my solutions? Feel free to like this post and leave a comment.