This band's profile is 'invisible', meaning that it's much less prominent on the site - either because it's incomplete, or maybe doesn't entirely fit MS format.
|When Oceansize christened themselves back at the start of the third millennium, they didn't just pick a name, they set themselves a challenge. Their mission statement was to make the biggest music possible, adventures on the high seas of future-rock giganticism that could never, ever stop. It also meant that every album they made would have to be even bigger, heavier, than the last one.
With Chris Sheldon-produced third set 'Frames', they've easily surpassed themselves on that challenge. But first, there were a few different challenges to overcome. Over two albums, 2003's grandiloquent 'Effloresce' and the dark and moody 'Everyone Into Position', Manchester's kings of post-metal had succeeded squarely on their own terms, but by 2006 they found themselves at a new crossroads. For their next trick, they would become a band refreshed.
A change in personal circumstances led to the departure of founding bass player Jon Ellis. This in itself invoked plenty of soul-searching, since the band's peculiar, five-brained alchemy had seen them seal an early pact where if one member was to leave, the band would split.
Life, of course, is rarely so clean cut, and for one thing Jon was insistent they should continue. The only question remaining was, how of Earth could they replace him? As Mike Vennart explains: "Because Jon is such a talented guy in quite a number of areas, we were concerned how we might find someone to fill his boots - somebody who understands the ins and outs of what we do."
The search for a new fifth member was far and wide, until they realised the answer was right on their own doorstep. Joining Mike Vennart (vocals, guitar), Gambler (more guitar), Steve Durose (even more guitar) and Mark Heron (drums) is newcomer Steven Hodson, who had been playing bass in Mark's hardcore side project, Kong. A 'wisecracking weirdo' from a hardcore punk background, Steven impressed with his front and conviction, bringing a new sense of chaos to their already explosive sound. "He takes the piss out of our taste," laughs Mike. "He calls heavy metal 'ultimate warrior wrestling music'." Whatever, Steven's influence is all over the new record - including lead single 'Unfamiliar', which grew entirely out of one of the ideas he brought to the table.
With a revised line-up and a renewed sense of purpose came a new home. After a successful two-album relationship with Beggars Banquet, Oceansize have moved on to Superball, a new imprint created in their honour, and with a mandate to sign up like-minded bands from all over Europe. "I think the changes have come at the right time," explains Mike. "There's a lot riding on a band's second album, but to have these important changes come at such a crucial time, it's really given us a new lease of life."
And that's a lease of life that gleams from every, crevice, peak, swerve and surprise of 'Frames', a record that's as phenomenal in its sense of adventure as it is uncompromising in its heaviosity. Picking up where, say, 'A Homage To A Shame' from the last album left off, it's the band's most cataclysmic work yet. It's certainly their loudest, and easily their best.
Fans of early 'Size will be delighted. Two of the band's most delicate moments led them to an untold new audience: 'Music For A Nurse' cropping up on the Orange fish adverts, and 'Meredith' soundtracking US drama The OC, the temptation might have been to leave behind the hard stuff altogether. That hasn't happened.
As Mike explains; "the biggest difference between the last one and this one was that with 'Everyone Into Position', subconsciously we were making the bid for airplay and trying to make things a little bit simpler. Not commercial, but more melodic. There was more of a focus on anthems and melody - this time we were like "to hell with that!"
Indeed, 'Frames' glows with the bonecrushing experimentation, mixing, erm, ultimate warrior wrestling music with beautiful classical flourishes. Oceansize always weaved magic out of unfamiliar time signatures. This time, they have so many of them going on at the same time that Vennart says the album is, at times, "the sound of a band ignoring itself." Evidenced on the lurching 'Savant' and the ravenous 'Only Twin' and the climactic 'The Frame', every single player goes on their own journey, making up a deeply intricate whole.
'Sleeping Dogs and Dead Lions', fact fans, contains the longest instance of the word 'c***' ever recorded, while 3 songs feature guest strings from Semay Woo of The Earlies.
Album three also sees the 'Size return to work at the Monnow Valley studios in Monmouth, Wales, with producer Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters / Biffy Clyro) who also steered their sprawling debut 'Effloresce', another move that felt like returning home. "He can just bring out dynamics that I never expected to be there," enthuses Mike, "it amazes me, really. The way I feel right now, it's just 'he's our guy, don't fuck with it."
And this sense of consolidation was confirmed as the sessions progressed. 'Frames' was made the same way the band always work, spending weeks, months recording every jam session, then taking all the bits and build them into songs. And while their third collection pushes Oceansize into hitherto uncharted sonic territory, it sounds, more than anything, like Oceansize.
Says Vennart: "We realised that you can't change a band's blueprint, and you shouldn't try. A band is always going to sound like what it sounds like. This has a different vibe to the stuff that we've done, and it's certainly the best thing we've done, but at the same time, you can't change your DNA."
While the band would prefer to leave specifics of the lyrics open to interpretation, Mike will divulge that, "there's a return to spite, like on the first album," says Mike with a smile,. "There wasn't as much of that last time round. There's definitely a lot more venom on this one - but it's also more domestic. The last album was more about looking outward in terms of what one's responsibilities are, in a more universal sense. This one is more domestic, and more about internal responsibilities."
And the title? "It evokes strength and structure," confides Mike. "And kind of a sense of time as well - every second is like a frame of your life that's ticking away and then it's gone. You can try and remember to try and look at it. But you'll probably only remember it as a snapshot, you won't remember the whole movement of the thing."
'Frames', make no mistake, is a snapshot of a band revived, renewed and at the very peak of their powers. Which just leaves Oceansize with one more challenge: how on Earth can they possibly hope to get bigger than this?