With so many different genres within genres, and bands to choose from, it’s the diversity that has always attracted me to music. This diversity creates some strong opinions as well. For instance, when I “walk” into a discussion about band X by my online friends, I’m rarely surprised that it’s a love them/hate them sided affair. Such was the case the other day for Oceans of Slumber. There was no middle ground on their music, it was either high praise or utter disgust. Much like when Suicide Silence released their last album, I was intrigued by the extreme division. I had casually listened to their 2016 album, Winter, but didn’t pay it enough attention to develop the strong opinions of my peers. So, I decided to do the opposite with their latest album, The Banished Heart, released Friday, March 2, 2018, via Century Media Records.
First of all, Cammie Gilbert’s voice is excellent, and anything Oceans of Slumber has released with her has been a testament to that. Now, some of that discussion I mentioned earlier spoke to a point that maybe she might be better suited for a different genre of music. I find her voice much more enjoyable than say, any band with a female vocalist in the ever growing symphonic metal genre a ’la Nightwish, etc. I’ve never been able to get into those bands and don’t care to (opinions!). For me, the debate is more about what the music is doing along with her awesome voice.
Opening track and single, ‘The Decay of Disregard,’ almost immediately jumps into Gilbert’s vocal, with not much else before it. The dark and brooding song chugs along for the next nine minutes, with some dynamics towards the end. It definitely sets a tone for the album, albeit maybe not the best, as many of the songs on the album follow this formula. ‘At Dawn’ breaks into some up-tempo blast beats, giving the listener some needed variance from the funeral dirge of the previous 15 minutes. Guitarist Sean Gary’s harsh vocal breaks up Gilbert’s melodies at different points throughout song, which is also a welcome change. The blast beats return on the title track, although the majority of the song is delicate piano cords and synths from Uaeb Yelsaeb. This song is another slooooow burner, with again not many real dynamics until the end. After what amounts to a two and a half minute interlude, ‘Eitolation’ finally gives us a song that kicks it in gear, sort of, as Gary’s growl returns. ‘A Path to Broken Stars’ is the first song that maintains any sort of quicker tempo. However, Gilbert’s cadence doesn’t change, so the song still feels slow. ‘Howl of Rougarou’ suffers the same fate. Even the duet between Gilbert and Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund, ‘No Color, No Light,’ as great as it is, suffers because of all the previous songs. By the time you get to it, ten songs in, you’ve been lulled to sleep.
If there is one problem I have with The Banished Heart, it is Cammie Gilbert’s plodding vocals throughout the album. The rest of Oceans of Slumber can’t break away from it, and for me, this has a detrimental effect on the album as a whole. Unfortunately, as great as her voice is, because every note is delivered in such a slow, methodical rate, any changes in tempo and dynamics are much less noticeable than if Gilbert’s vocal pattern changed as well. So, does Oceans of Slumber need a new vocalist? Definitely not! However, some kind of musical meshing needs to happen between Gilbert and the rest of the band on a more basic level in the future, or their next album will be another one to use as a sleep aid.