Artist: …And Oceans
Album Title: Cosmic World Mother
Label: Season Of Mist
Date of Release: 8 May 2020
In my recent review of the new Naglfar album, ‘Cerecloth’, I mentioned that I discovered them via a black metal compilation on the Blackend record label in the mid-nineties. That was volume two. Fast forward to 1999 and the fifth instalment of that compilation series. It is there, with the Internet still a fledgling invention, that I discover a band called …And Oceans. It has to be said that they never made the same kind of impact on me as others within their chosen genre but their brand of symphonic black metal was something I enjoyed.
Unfortunately, as the band moved more into industrial and electronic realms, the Finns began to lose me as I was definitely more attuned to the symphonic black metal elements at the time. The electronic and industrial quota increased to the point where the band actually changed their name to Havoc Unit. I listened no longer, I must admit.
When I read recently that a return of the …And Oceans name was a reality and that we would hear new material for the first time in 18 years, since they released ‘Cypher’ in 2002, I was interested to hear the results. If nothing else, I thought it might be a nice trip into nostalgic territory. What I wasn’t expecting was to be blown away in quite the way that I have with ‘Cosmic World Mother’. This album is nothing short of sensational but crucially it isn’t a mere exercise in re-living and re-hashing the past.
For the ‘reformation’ under the …And Oceans moniker, there have been a few line-up changes to say the least. In fact, the only original members are guitarists Timo Kontio and Temu Saari. They have recruited vocalist Mathias Lillmåns, he of Finntroll fame as well as bassist Petri Seikkula, drummer Kauko Kuusisalo and synth/keyboardist Antti Simonen. From the very beginning, these six musicians have captured my imagination and pulled me along for the most glorious of extreme metal rides.
For me, there is little that’s more exhilarating than when extreme metal collides in glorious harmony with epic, serene melody. The blend, when done right, is intoxicating. I get goosebumps, I start smiling like a loon and I lose all ability to speak coherently. I start uttering phrases like ‘woah’, ‘oh my…wow…ugh…yeah!’ My inner pedant recoils in horror, whilst my inner metalhead goes bonkers. And that’s what …And Oceans have done with ‘Cosmic World Mother’.
I’m not kidding when I say that there are so many great songs on this record. I genuinely love most, if not all of them. And that’s saying something when there are eleven tracks to digest and when the music does offer significant variety along the way.
In many ways, what …And Oceans have sought to do with ‘Cosmic World Mother’, is to pay homage to their past, from the very beginnings in the late nineties, right through to some of the material that adorned their Havoc Unit output. Or, at least, inject elements of these records into the music, because the beating heart of this album is symphonic black metal with lashings of stunning melodies.
What I like so much about the …And Oceans sound here, is the interplay between the quintessential fast-picked staccato riffing from the dual guitars and the synth work from Antti Simonen. Alone, both ingredients work well. Put them together, however, and the magic starts to happen. You can hear plenty of this within the opening, ferocious track, ‘The Dissolution Of Mind And Matter’, a song that knocks you flat on your backside within seconds. No fancy intro, no holding back; this is savage, extreme black metal. But in come the twin lead guitar riffs and the gentle synths to transcend the song from technically very good, to almost unforgettable.
But incredibly, the opener is not the best song on the record. That accolade is reserved for one of about three or four others. The first contender is ‘Five of Swords’ which delivers one of the most elegant melodies I’ve heard in extreme metal this year. After two frenetic and unrelenting minutes, the pace slows and the synths bathe the music in an ethereal glow. And then a lead guitar line enters to accent and enhance the already captivating melody to incredible proportions. The juxtaposition between the aggressive attack and the beauty is jaw-dropping.
‘As The After Becomes The Before’ shows hints of the electronic side of …And Oceans, particularly in the opening moments and latter stages. But again, this is a symphonic black metal track at heart and so it delivers yet more fast-paced aggression led by the rhythm section of bassist Petri Seikkula and drummer Kauko Kuusisalo, who seems equally at home producing blasts or something a little more subtle. The aggression is expertly teamed with more majestic melody to keep me grinning from ear to ear.
I mentioned earlier that ‘Cosmic World Mother’ is something of a homage to all aspects of the…And Oceans sound, and fittingly, the title track acts as one of the perfect examples. The electronic sounds emerge much more boldly, right from the beginning in fact via the keyboard intro that sounds just a little more sinister than normal thanks to some tinkering with the effects. Then, just after the half-way mark, the powerfully intense black metal onslaught gives way to a very bold electronic segment which, just like the song’s name, feels ‘cosmic’, complete with distorted keys and electronic beat. I shouldn’t like it but it works so well within the context of the song that I just do.
The fourth contender for ‘song of the album’, emerges as ‘Helminthiasis’ thanks to yet more spellbinding, grandiose beauty. The dual guitars are at the heart of the melody whilst Mathias Lillmåns, who I’ve not yet mentioned, barks with authority over the top. The song then moves into an industrial/electronic section that is cinematic and dystopian in the extreme, ended by more extreme black metal punishment before a shorter-than-desired melodic ending.
I honestly could mention more songs because they deserve it. Suffice to say that the experimentation continues, albeit in subtle ways as well as obvious, whilst all the time the band never lose sight that they are a symphonic black metal band. And what a symphonic black metal band they are. Properly heavy, properly epic, properly melodic. Add in the more experimental electronic elements and you’re suddenly confronted with an album of epic proportions, where variety and boldness add to the sonic palette in such a powerful manner. I cannot speak too highly of ‘Cosmic World Mother’ because, in a year of great extreme metal releases, it is easily one of the best I’ve heard so far. Mesmerising.
The Score of Much Metal: 94%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: