Germany's The Ocean is back, this time with a 2CD set titled Precambrian, which is comprised of a 22 minute mini-CD called Hadean/Archaean, and an hour long full length titled Proterozoic. As you can probably imagine, both parts refer to consecutive geological eras. Stylistically, both discs differ from each other, as Haydean/Archaean offers up plenty of screaming, technical hardcore, while Proterozoic is the progressive/psychedelic alter ego, which sees the band much more expansive and even mellow at times. No matter which side you tend to gravite towards, this third release from The Ocean shows how quickly the band is maturing, and is easily their best release to date.
Haydean/Archaean is pretty raucous from start to finish, with five tracks of smoldering, often times technical arrangements, growling vocals, and a real sense of fury and mayhem. At times reminiscant of early Mastodon, or even Burst, the band fires away with hardcore brutality and prog technicality on tracks such as "Eoarchaean" and "Neoarchaean", taking the listener on a virtual roller coaster ride through jarring peaks and valleys, finally commencing just over the 20 minute mark.
On the second CD, Proterozoic, their progressive tendencies take over fully, showing the influence of Opeth, Neurosis, Isis, and Pelican. Lead in track "Siderian" features plenty of diverse instrumentation, including sax and keyboards, while the bombastic "Rhyacian" sees crushing guitar riffs and brutal vocal growls doing battle with 70's styled prog synth blasts and strings for a real dramatic and powerful song that could be the best in the band's catalog. Things keep moving from there, the next track "Orosirian" like a bizarre meeting of Between the Buried and Me, Isis, and Cult of Luna, complete with haunting keys, intricate guitar riffs, violin, and effective vocal growls. Lilting guitar stums and violin lull the mix of "Statherian", while the opening Isis-meets-Pink Floyd spacey menace of "Calymmian" eventually gives way to crushing metal guitar riffs and bombastic rhythms. Crushing doom is all the rage on the tortured strains of "Ectasian", right down to the dirge-like riffs and desperate growls (gotta love that creepy violin too!), while "Stenian" is pure progressive rock, complete with clean vocals, keys, and loads of strings. Majestic piano kicks off "Tonian", a song that grabs the listener by each arm and pulls in opposing directions. One part melodic & majestic prog/post rock number, the other crushing extreme metal, this one will certainly keep you on your toes. The final song, "Cryogenian" is a haunting mix of violin and piano, and a great way to peacefully end this rather unique and exhausting album.
Due to the subject nature here, song titles, and the fact that things are spread over two CD's, there's a lot of content to soak in. Might it have been better to trim off a song or two and condense into one album? Perhaps. Regardless, Precambrian is ultimately a very good, diverse, and progressive extreme metal album from The Ocean, easily one of the most adventurous metal albums released on Metal Blade Records this year.