Pretty much exactly 2 years and 2 days since the release of their second album, Houston based Oceans Of Slumber have worked hard to get their third album completed, persevering through internal and family struggles to get it all done.
The piano isn’t just used for the opening minute of “The Decay of Disregard” when the guitars come in, but several times throughout the album. Anthony Contreras and Sean Gary’s guitar riff is slow, heavy and chugs along just below Cammie Gilbert’s powerful voice and the occasional growl by Sean with Keegan Kelly’s driving bass keeping time with Dobber Beverly kick triplets and tom-tom rolls.
Toning everything down completely, “Fleeting Vigilance” starts with picked guitar notes and Cammie’s gentle female vocals, but this is short-lived. Once the guitars and blasting drum beats join the fray, Sean adds his death vocals to the mix making everything that much more intense. Or does it just seem that way, as they keep dropping back to nearly no guitar and just the female vocals? You listen and decide.
In a similar vein “At Dawn” starts slow but quickly builds the guitars, having Cammie singing more forcefully to drown them out, but when Sean’s roaring begins we’re definitely in doom death territory as the guitars and drums alternate picking up the pace, but never simultaneously until right near the end.
Title track “The Banished Heart” has Cammie sounding far sultrier, or perhaps it’s just that her tone is warmer and filled with far more emotion, especially during the pieces where she’s solely accompanied by Dobber’s piano. The video for the song is also exquisitely filmed and adds visually to the climax of the song.
“The Watcher” is a heavy soundscape fading in and out until “Etiolation” begins and guitars provide a melody for vocals to follow, be they clean or death growls.
I really like the guitar riff on “A Path to Broken Stars” as its staccato is tempered by the cymbals and building drum beats all the while Cammie’s ultra-smooth and melodic singing remains unchanged as the riff gets heavier and the tapping on the drums becomes pounding.
The gentle singing carries on in “Howl of the Rougarou”, but the guitars are now minimalist acoustic accompaniment making the song nearly acapella for the first two minutes, then the distortion and drums kick in to add a little depth and hint of anger. While “Her in the Distance” is a beautiful piano based instrumental played by Dobber.
Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund adds his vocals to “No Color, No Light”, working very well with Cammie’s as the strong clean male vocals keep things melodic forcing the slow guitars to add the heaviness rather than the death growls.
Ending the album on a really sombre note, “Wayfaring Stranger” has whispered vocals with a haunting echo which only has some keyboards and very lightly tapped drums joining them right at the end. Definitely meant to be heart wrenching and heartfelt for that matter.
Great for listening to on a dark and snowy day.
(8/10 Marco Gaminara)