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Oceans Of Slumber - The Banished Heart Award winner

Oceans Of Slumber
The Banished Heart
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 23 February 2018, 2:37 PM

Houston, Texas Progressive Metal quintet OCEANS OF SLUMBER formed in 2011. According to the band, “The last few years have been turbulent. When you have this mixture of a few very emotional and creative people, it gets shaky sometimes. Internal and family struggles were trying to rot us from the inside out. This new album (“The Banished Heart”) is a reflection of those personal feelings.“The Banished Heart” is their third release, and contains eleven tracks.

“The Decay of Disregard” is a nine-minute opening opus into these themes. Ominous piano notes ring out in the beginning, premonitory in nature. The guitar riff is heavy and deep, rumbling in your mid-section like something trying to break out of your innards. Cammie’s emotive vocals provide the fuel for this dirge, which takes you on a journey to the dark recesses of your mind; areas that you have tried to lock away, but can be sequestered no more. “Fleeting Vigilance” is more tender in nature at first, but the incensed Death Metal vocals provide the flip side in the song, reminding you that although the Lily of the Valley flowers are pretty, they pack a dangerous poison.

“At Dawn” is another lengthy piece. Cammie talks about being “right at the edge of no return.” It has a mixture of slower, more gut wrenching passages and all-out rage from weighted guitar, bass and thunderous bass drumming. It feels like a tale of woe that you aren’t quite sure if you will survive in the end, but are pulling every resource inside of yourself to mitigate. The title track is the longest on the album. When you talk about the meaning of the word “banished,” it is perhaps the strongest word for something lost in exile forever. The piano parts are beautiful here. Dark at times, but still frail. Cammie throws vulnerability to the wind and just seems to let what is going to happen come to pass. There is a deep longing here that also tinges with bitterness and indignation. It is so moving that it makes you ache. After all of this emotion, the short instrumental pause of “The Watcher,” gives you some breathing room. But, it pulses with a prophetic warning, promising a return of darkness.

“Etiolation” is that return to the void. Roughly translated, it means “feebleness” or “inadequacy.” The Death Vocals and glittering lead guitar breaks would provide caution for this, but against the pensive clean vocals it makes sense. There is a subdued power that throbs throughout, reflected best perhaps in Kelly’s bass work. “A Path to Broken Stars” is a very telling song title. Stars often represent our dreams and what we aim for in life. When they are already all broken, the path we must endure for this future hope becomes worthless. The push and pull of hope and despair is key to the sound in this track. In French lore, a “rougarou” is the equivalent of a werewolf. Unsuspecting at first, you come face to face with the beast in “The Howl of the Rougarou” when the distorted guitar and bass slam in. A werewolf is a tortured creature if you think about it, so the symbolism is very fitting. They are driven to feed by their alter ego and have no recollection of what they did or who they really are inside.

“Her in the Distance” is a short piano piece that conjures for me imagery of seeing yourself as you used to be, far away. Or, perhaps as you want to be. Either way, it produces a longing that occupies a place in your heart forever. “No Color, No Light” was the first track released in advance of the album. Dual clean vocals and a suspenseful sound abound. The bereaved duet is almost like two souls searching for one another in the darkness, never to be found. “Wayfaring Stranger” is a four-minute closing song. A “wayfarer” is a traveler. Perhaps one that we think of as a being lost, and having no home. It could also represent a moment in your own life when you feel lost. Though the journey to a place to call home could rage for years, quitting makes what you have learned along the way worthless.

This album is a transcending journey through a blackened night that threatens no coming of the dawn. The song titles reflect themes that are tangible and tactile, combining powerful emotions and poignant moments with the heavy edge of rage and despair, in another dimension of consciousness. Yet, hope remains, even if it is so frail that speaking its name would make it vanish in front of you forever. It is both a rare and startling experience to be able to get such a deep and expansive glimpse into the personal world of the band. “The Banished Heart” is marvelous.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

5 Star Rating

1. The Decay of Disregard
2. Fleeting Vigilance
3. At Dawn
4. The Banished Heart
5. The Watcher
6. Etiolation
7. A Path to Broken Stars
8. Howl of the Rougarou
9. Her in the Distance
10. No Color, No Light
11. Wayfaring Stranger
Cammie Gilbert – Vocals
Anthony Contreras – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Sean Gary – Guitar, Vocals
Keegan Kelly – Bass, Backing Vocals
Dobber - Drums, Piano/Synths, Guitar 
Record Label: Century Media Records


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