Monday, January 2, 2012

Oceano - Contagion


I’ve been listening to Oceano since the release of Depths in 2009. Depths is one of the best examples of a debut that is a compilation of Oceano songs from before they got signed on to a label. I heard Depths and thought “this is pretty good, but eh, not what I would call one of my favorites.” But even though I had such mediocre feelings towards their debut, I came to find out that I was listening to this album addictively; so there’s some subliminally addictive quality in their music that gets the listener hooked. So when I saw on Spirit of Metal that Oceano had a new album out I decided to give it a spin and I was surprised with how much the band had improved. There is one thing that they probably shouldn’t have done on their first album and that was having 15 songs, because Contagion only has 10. Having a bunch of songs on your first album makes the listener expect a similar amount of material on the next album; but in this case, the size of Contagion is slightly overpowered by that of Depths. But what is within these 10 tracks makes up for the lack in size.

Those of you that are already familiar with the basic history of deathcore can just skip this paragraph. Since 2007, deathcore has continued to reign as one of the most popular metal genres in existence; with many deathcore bands appearing on the Mayhem Festival and even on the Warped Tour (not the best place for them). The reason why I say 2007 is because many of today’s biggest deathcore heavyweights released their first album during that year. If you don’t believe me, some of those bands include Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, Carnifex, Born of Osiris, and Attila. Even though deathcore was already around by this time with bands like Despised Icon, All Shall Perish, Bring me the Horizon, Lamb of God, and Heaven Shall Burn, it didn’t make its way to the ears of the mainstream metalheads until 2007. After that year, there was an explosion of deathcore bands around the world! The next big year for new deathcore debuts was 2009 with bands that are now huge and some bands that are still underground but still loved by the hardcore deathcore fans. Some of those bands include In the Midst of Lions, I Built the Cross, Here Comes the Kraken, Bleed from Within, As you Drown, and Oceano.

The hardest thing about writing a review is knowing where to start. Oceano is one of the deathcore bands that has more growls than screams (kind of like Carnifex and Born of Osiris). They’re best known for their huge black vocalist made of what seems like solid muscle. His growls aren’t guttural at all; in fact, they have a tad bit of a mid-range sound to them but still have a deep and extremely powerful sound.

I think they went a little overboard with the breakdowns in their first album; and it seems that they thought that too because the amount of breakdowns in Contagion is far less than that of Depths. There are some bands that are irritating and uncreative because the majority of their songs seem like a constant breakdown (i.e. Emmure and Meshuggah) without any buildup at all. When it comes to that sudden extreme drop in temperature known as a “breakdown”, I think that they sound best when there is some buildup of tension and power to make it sound more extreme. If you can’t come up with a good buildup, another thing that can make a breakdown sound epic is having a sudden faster breakdown that then eventually drops into a slower brutal tempo made to inflict whiplash upon the listeners. Some great examples of this on Contagion would be the two breakdowns on the eighth track, Weaponized, which also turns out to be my favorite. But these breakdowns occur all throughout the album and they’re nowhere near being unnecessary or overused. But for those of you who headbang, the BEST headbanging part would be the breakdown during the second half of the first track, I’ll leave it up to you to find it.

The guitar distortion in Contagion sounds almost exactly like the one from Depths; only Contagion’s guitars are a little smoother and less crunchy. The guitar work in general is much more interesting in this album rather than just deep chugging like what was done in Depths. The drumming is very tight and precise, seldom using blast beats to express rage; instead, the rage is expressed in the symbols during the breakdowns when the drummer lifts his arms up high and brings them down on the symbols like he’s chopping someone in half. He even cracked one of his symbols when I saw them live at the 2011 Summer Slaughter Tour.

In Depths, all of the musicians were good, but the band wasn’t too impressive. In Contagion, all of the musicians are good, and the band is even better. It sometimes takes a couple of years before the members of a band truly interlock and become family. This is very apparent in Contagion because it sounds more like a band playing rather than a bunch of musicians playing.

Overall, this is one of the best deathcore albums ever released. I know that what I may have described probably doesn’t sound as amazing as the rating I gave the album, but a truly amazing piece of music is not defined by the amount of technicality or skill of the musicians, it’s defined by the ability it has to create emotions within the listener, and Contagion is a very powerful album that does a perfect job of that, I would give this 20/20 making this my new favorite deathcore band.