Album Review: Oceansize

Album Review: Oceansize
Album: Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up
Label: Superball

Giving an opinion on an Oceansize album is a difficult job. If Everyone Into Position was their attempt at pleasing the masses (and it was) then follow-up Frames was a band unleashed into the wild, attempting to do everything within the space of 50 minutes, resulting in an incoherent album that had peaks, but often languished in overzealous ambition.

With that burst of conscience-free music past, Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up is, fortunately, a much more coherent affair. This is a band at its best when crafting atmosphere as well as solid songs, something they should have stuck to after nailing it on their debut record Effloresce. It has taken seven years to achieve that sensation again, although Self Preserved treads a much murkier template than the lighter mood of the debut.

A top-loaded opening trio shows how little effort the Manchester group require to write devastatingly heavy tracks, and in their older years they’ve compressed this density to create a hard-hitting opening that sits nicely alongside the band’s heavier contemporaries. The riffs are more subdued than on the likes of ‘Homage to a Shame’ and yet they leave an unmistakably stronger imprint on the mind.

But after this initial flurry, old habits resurface and the familiarly lucid Oceansize makes its introduction on ‘Oscar Acceptance Speech’. A twinkling piano line strings along the disparate sections of guitar and rhythm, leading to a delicately poised conclusion that completely slows the pace of the album down; a shallow breath amongst the suffocating blitz.

Self Preserved is unlikely to put Oceansize on the same pedestal as the likes of Muse and Biffy Clyro – a position that a few years ago they may have been more enthusiastic to attain – but realistically that would destroy the band anyway. This record proves they’re better at pleasing themselves than the masses, and that’s the attitude that has finally sunk in on this record. They show a breadth of musicianship that sees the album swinging from that sludgy opening salvo to softer, more intricate pieces such as ‘Silent/Transparent’, an eight-minute track that uses that time to twist and contort into many different shapes and sounds before reaching a juddering conclusion.

A note must go to Vennart’s vocal performance. The rage heard in previous albums has dissipated a great deal, replaced with a less attention-seeking delivery. His vocals, and the lyrics embedded within them, take longer to make a memorable impression on the mind but over repeated listens the variety he puts into the role blossoms into a cornerstone of emotional performance, Vennart judging the mood of each track to perfection.

Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up is Oceansize’s masterpiece. It embodies everything the band has been trying to achieve in over a decade of recording, and only now with the combination of maturity, experience and the acceptance that you just can’t please everybody, has the band fully realised its potential. Self Preserved is a consistent and engaging listen, and while the band’s previous efforts were certainly rewarding, the attention to detail shown here makes Self Preserved much more so. Now that Oceansize are doing it for themselves – and not to satiate a shallow demographic that they feel they should appeal to – the results are more pleasing than ever.

Originally published at The Line of Best Fit.

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