Metal has become such an evolved beast in the past decade-plus the stakes continue to rise by the year, if not month. Those who make a genuine impact these days are those who can effectively marginalize cliches and maximize cross-bred techniques with such fluidity the entire genre is held to nearly impossible standards. Thus it's a wonder more bands haven't thrown in the towel.
For certain, Houston's OCEANS OF SLUMBER are likely to send more than a handful of aspirant groups packing or force them to elevate in response. In just their first recording and released on their own wares, OCEANS OF SLUMBER issues a demonstrative statement out the gate with their metallic brain stew debut, "Aetherial".
Prog, power pump, grind, black metal, jazz and other components mesh together on "Aetherial" with such textured grace it just about defies logic a band has this much to offer on their freshman effort. Boatloads of variables go into OCEANS OF SLUMBER's elongated (and gonzo, particularly on "Primordial") compositions they will blow many minds apart with their hasty signature swerves that somehow stay geometric amidst the frenzied changes. There's actual order reigning in the breathless chaos of "Aetherial" where MASTODON meets MUDVAYNE in spots (most evident on "Coffins Like Kites") while black and death metal modes seethe against the winding prog stylizations of KING CRIMSON ("Only a Corpse", "Blackest Cloud" and the title track, as examples).
In many ways, OCEANS OF SLUMBER isn't far off from the same explorative theories Robin Staps and THE OCEAN dabbles in, only with less crunk, perhaps. There's constant intoxication to "Aetherial"'s intricate brutality as there is so freaking much to absorb. The opening track "God in Skin" is both uplifting and terrifying in equal measures. Its brisk acoustic intro is pulverized by rolling tides of static from Sean Gary, Keegan Kelly and Anthony Contreras, plus constantly shifting patterns by drummer Dobber Beverly, who's an absolute leviathan on this album.
Not quite Brann Dailor, but well within Dailor's caliber, Beverly (most notably of INSECT WARFARE prior to) is still world class. His exuberance is evident and his capacity to build crescendos through the progressive breakaway on "Coffins Like Kites" leads into a devastating grind climax that rips the entire track to shreds before settling down into a still-punishing exodus. All throughout "Aetherial", Dobber Beverly plays at the highest level while his OCEANS OF SLUMBER mates match his pedigree with unwavering proficiency.
Everything about "Aetherial" is a head trip. The brackish black metal lines exploding out of the deceiving serenity of "Memoriam" whirls a tsunami of aural carnage before resuming a tuneful course through the final section that allows the well-gifted Ronnie Allen to weave a soothing croon out of his maniacal growling. Wait for Allen to dick with his listeners again on the following song, "Remedy", where he rips his throat raw with bellows and shrieks, then gives way to a soulful dust-up thereafter. In response, OCEANS OF SLUMBER modifies the tones behind him from blaring to beauteous and the method is repeated with different variations to each segment of "Remedy"'s exhilarating interchangeability. Then there's the jam section stationed within the title track and the aquatic jazz-prog on "Blackest Cloud" which really show off each player's prowess.
DIY goes to the next level with "Aetherial", making OCEANS OF SLUMBER potential legends in the making, yet it will be criminal if a label never courts these guys with an offer. A self-released debut that sounds and looks this pro (not to mention intelligent) has the capacity to usher a new dawn, thus it's well in the interest of the industry to investigate what OCEANS OF SLUMBER is bloody well capable of. At the very least, "Aetherial" is one of 2013's most significant releases.