The Ocean - Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic / Cenozoic review



Reviewer:
8.4

158 users:
8.30
Band: The Ocean
Album: Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic / Cenozoic
Release date: September 2020


01. Triassic
02. Jurassic | Cretaceous
03. Palaeocene
04. Eocene
05. Oligocene
06. Miocene | Pliocene
07. Pleistocene
08. Holocene


In late September 2019, I gave a glowing review to a new album with monochrome artwork released by an established post-metal band. Given all the chaos that has come with 2020, I'm experiencing a surprising degree of déjà vu right now.

By the time the 2010s began, Cult Of Luna were already firmly established as a leader in the post-metal subgenre. In contrast, whilst progressive post-metal act The Ocean had acquired a reasonable amount of buzz for albums such as Precambrian and Anthropocentric, it was only really with 2013's Pelagial that the band truly announced themselves as a major force to be reckoned with, a stunning leap forward six albums into the band's career that was backed up by 2018's Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic. As such, rather than being just another impressive entry into a reliably stellar discography like last year's effort by the Swedes, Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic has the job of sustaining The Ocean's current hot streak to further solidify them as a monument in the post-metal scene. I think it's fair to say that Phanerozoic II rises to that task, albeit with certain minor reservations.

The Ocean make a strong first impression with "Triassic", a hefty beast with an extended moody intro featuring tasty bass licks before transitioning into a call-and-response between ominous, reverbing softness and powerful heaviness. This track also features some memorable Arabian-influenced guitar melodies, alongside some other, more emphatic guitar leads. Like the previous two efforts by the band, Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic comes in both full-band and instrumental-only forms, and once again I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would bother with the latter, given that Loïc Rossetti is the outstanding frontman in post-metal at the moment in my opinion. He provides further evidence to support that opinion on "Triassic", switching with ease between haunting, hypnotic cleans and vicious roars. Further evidence for his greatness come with the stirring chorus melodies on "Miocene | Pliocene" and the higher-pitched screams that shred on "Pleistocene".

Rossetti is joined on "Jurassic | Cretaceous" by Katatonia's Jonas Renkse, following up his appearance on "Devonian: Nascent" from this album's predecessor. "Jurassic | Cretaceous" is, for my money, the clear standout track on Phanerozoic II; numerous comparisons have been made with Tool since the song was released as the album's first single, and whilst these comparisons are apt (particularly when the 'verse' riff first enters), there is plenty more of note in this track, including the use of horns and trumpets, the exceptional use of and shift between different dynamics, the build-up in the keyboard-heavy midsections, the memorable chorus refrain, and the band's signature synchronous percussion/vocal delivery late on. The band are firing on all cylinders on this track (Paul Seidel demonstrates why his inclusion in the band is such as coup for The Ocean), but this in turn leads into my main reservation with Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic.

"Triassic" and "Jurassic | Cretaceous" are an impressive double-header to kick off the album, and arguably too impressive an opening. The songs are comfortably the longest on the album, taking up a quarter of the tracklist but nearly half the runtime, and they contain an even greater proportion of the album's key moments. After these two songs are over, the tracks that follow can't quite live up to this standard; "Eocene" in particular feels like a weak link, featuring some nice vocal melodies but also some forgettable ones, and performing a somewhat redundant role as the 'soft' track, given that it's immediately followed by the instrumental piece "Oligocene", a far more effective shift in tone from the intensity of the first three songs. When you consider the consistency in quality throughout Phanerozoic I, this drop-off feels a tad glaring.

The closing trio of songs on the record make for a solid conclusion to the album. On top of the aforementioned stirring chorus in "Miocene | Pliocene", "Pleistocene" features an effective range of sounds, from the cello early on to the blast beats during its conclusion, making it perhaps the 'best of the rest' on the album. That title is hotly competed for by closing song "Holocene", a muted, slick and atmospheric piece that has more than a hint to Riverside to it, particularly on the part of the bass-playing. As thoroughly enjoyable as "Holocene" is, however, it makes for a slightly unconventional end to the album; when compared to the epic intensity and feeling of finality that "Permian: The Great Dying" and "Benthic: The Origin Of Our Wishes" delivered on Phanerozoic I and Pelagial, respectively, such a low-key conclusion feels like a slight anti-climax. I'm sure it makes full sense conceptually, but speaking purely in terms of the vibes that I get from the music, given that the Phanerozoic albums are framed as a two-parter, "Holocene" feels like it would make for a strong conclusion to an act I, whereas "The Great Dying" would be a more fittingly emphatic overall closer. To a degree, this is nitpicking, as the song itself is excellent, but I've spun Phanerozoic I quite a lot recently in anticipation for the release, and given how emotionally charged I feel every time that album ends, the slight sense of petering out that I get here does temper my enthusiasm for Phanerozoic II.

Slightly inferior to its predecessor in terms of both album-wide consistency and standout tracks, and with some scope for debate regarding the tracklist order and the resulting vibes the album gives off, Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic is still another strong outing from The Ocean. Judged by the expectations that "Jurassic | Cretaceous" set when it was first released, I do feel the album falls slightly short of them based on the first few listens I've given it; however, Phanerozoic I has grown on me in a big way in the two years since its release, so there's every chance that the same will happen with its successor.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 9


 



Written on 27.09.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 11   Visited by: 127 users
27.09.2020 - 01:01
musclassia
I was hoping that this would be a slightly more rapturous review, but given the glut of reviews I'll be publishing within the next week or so, I'm happy that the honor of being review number 100 went to an album and band as good as this one
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27.09.2020 - 10:36
nikarg
Mod
Congrats for the 100th review! As you say, the first two tracks stand out (particularly "Jurassic | Cretaceous") and I liked the last two as well but I got slightly bored with the stuff in between... Only listened once though so far.
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27.09.2020 - 11:29
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Massive congrats. I was kinda hoping we'd get separate albums for those two eras. But I'm kinda also hoping The Ocean would take the Antropocentric / Heliocentric approach and do something other than geological history.
----
Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
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27.09.2020 - 12:12
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 27.09.2020 at 11:29

Massive congrats. I was kinda hoping we'd get separate albums for those two eras. But I'm kinda also hoping The Ocean would take the Antropocentric / Heliocentric approach and do something other than geological history.


Tbh a lot of the The Ocean's concepts are rather lost on me given that I don't pay much attention to lyrics
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27.09.2020 - 14:58
Risto
Wandering Midget
Written by musclassia on 27.09.2020 at 12:12

Tbh a lot of the The Ocean's concepts are rather lost on me given that I don't pay much attention to lyrics

Both Phanerozoic albums seem to be using the geological periods as metaphors for ebbs and flows in human relationships, which are then tied to the philosophical idea of eternal recurrence that shows in both music and lyrics. Eocene reprises a musical theme from Jurassic | Cretaceous because that epoch had certain things in common with the Cretaceous period, and there's even a small lyrical reference in "defy the debris storm".

For me this album is potentially better than the previous one. I was certainly a bit surprised how much of the album is restrained in heaviness and technicality, but the vocal hooks and arrangements easily carry the torch. Pleistocene is one of their best songs ever. The only weak link for me is actually Palaeocene which falls into the trap of beating old paths a bit too much, save for the use of guest vocalist.
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27.09.2020 - 15:36
UnknownCheese
If you bothered to actually look at the lyrics and not the song titles you'd see their lyrics deal with relationships, social and climate issues and nothing to do with the time periods of the Earth.
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28.09.2020 - 08:51
Skurut
Quote:
Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic comes in both full-band and instrumental-only forms, and once again I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would bother with the latter, given that Loïc Rossetti is the outstanding frontman in post-metal at the moment in my opinion.

I guess this depends on personal preferences and musical taste. I, for example, mostly prefer the instrumental versions of The Ocean albums. When compared to other metal bands I like, I would personally regard vocal performance on The Ocean albums as average at best (and sometimes it is actually quite annoying for me). Therefore I'm really very grateful, that The Ocean are releasing also the instrumental versions and that they are composing music in such a way, that it doesn't rely on the voice (or at least not much).
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28.09.2020 - 12:28
musclassia
Written by Skurut on 28.09.2020 at 08:51

Quote:
Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic comes in both full-band and instrumental-only forms, and once again I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would bother with the latter, given that Loïc Rossetti is the outstanding frontman in post-metal at the moment in my opinion.

I guess this depends on personal preferences and musical taste. I, for example, mostly prefer the instrumental versions of The Ocean albums. When compared to other metal bands I like, I would personally regard vocal performance on The Ocean albums as average at best (and sometimes it is actually quite annoying for me). Therefore I'm really very grateful, that The Ocean are releasing also the instrumental versions and that they are composing music in such a way, that it doesn't rely on the voice (or at least not much).


Different strokes for different folks I guess; whenever I listened to the instrumental version of Pelagial, it just sounded incomplete
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28.09.2020 - 19:26
DeliciousDishes
doesn't use salt
I pretty much agree in most aspects. I don't think it really lives up to Part 1 or Precambrian, but it's really solid. "Jurassic | Cretaceous" definitely sticks out as the best track, though Pleistocene is close for me. Overall really solid and almost even in quality with a few duds.
I really liked the mellow ending. Instrumentally it even kinda reminded me of Giant Squid with how the used the violin/guitar combo.

Written by UnknownCheese on 27.09.2020 at 15:36

If you bothered to actually look at the lyrics and not the song titles you'd see their lyrics deal with relationships, social and climate issues and nothing to do with the time periods of the Earth.

they still have something to do with the geological time periods though lol? Climate issues are quite literally shaping these periods and their flora/fauna (which is how these time periods are defined/recognized). Of course they use it as metaphors, but it's still there.

Written by Skurut on 28.09.2020 at 08:51

I guess this depends on personal preferences and musical taste. I, for example, mostly prefer the instrumental versions of The Ocean albums. When compared to other metal bands I like, I would personally regard vocal performance on The Ocean albums as average at best (and sometimes it is actually quite annoying for me). Therefore I'm really very grateful, that The Ocean are releasing also the instrumental versions and that they are composing music in such a way, that it doesn't rely on the voice (or at least not much).

I definitely agree, especially his harsh vocals feel a bit too standard metalcore for me. His clean ones are pretty great though the last few albums and the catchy choruses are really fun to me, so I prefer the vocal versions of the songs. Instrumentally they're pretty good, but they aren't anything spectacular to me either. But I just generally don't like this ISIS brand of post metal as much. I think what The Ocean does really well, is having a great mix of everything.
----
You are the hammer, I am the nail
building a house in the fire on the hill
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30.09.2020 - 06:04
tintinb
Along with Tool and Riverside there is a slight bit of Leprous lurking there somewhere. I have been listening to The Ocean since their 2013 album Pelagial and I have become accustomed to their signature heaviness which I found to be somewhat lacking here. It does come forward in Miocene | Pliocene though. Still this is an excellent album, a true masterpiece of the genre, one of the better releases of 2020. I agree with you regarding Loïc Rossetti being the outstanding frontman in post-metal at the moment. His vocal deliveries are superb and usually on point. As far as the instrumental version goes I find myself enjoying that a lot too. I usually do not care for instrumental versions of Power or Symphonic Metal albums so this is a surprise even to myself. The powerful ending via the trio songs that you mentioned is very very true, this gives the album a near perfect closure.

Congrats on your 100th review, I enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed listening to the album.
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30.09.2020 - 10:15
musclassia
Written by tintinb on 30.09.2020 at 06:04

As far as the instrumental version goes I find myself enjoying that a lot too. I usually do not care for instrumental versions of Power or Symphonic Metal albums so this is a surprise even to myself. The powerful ending via the trio songs that you mentioned is very very true, this gives the album a near perfect closure.


I guess post-metal is more focused on the flow of dynamics on the instrumental side, whilst power/symphonic albums are usually very vocal-dominated, so it makes sense that they would work better as instrumental-only tracks, but I still feel like at least a few of the songs here and on the last albums are clearly missing something when the vocals are removed.


Written by tintinb on 30.09.2020 at 06:04


Congrats on your 100th review, I enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed listening to the album.


Thank you, good to hear!
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