On their full-length debut, Portland, ME's Ocean stand between doom metal's insular, shadowy underworld and the relatively more expressive sounds of post-rock. In the three extended pieces on Here Where Nothing Grows -- 20 minutes is the median length -- Ocean eke out every last resonating echo in the guitars, and roar with a wordless rage that's as bleak as anything by Leviathan. There's a cold wind blowing in from the sea on this album, and it's never even heard of good news. But there's also a deadly, dreary accuracy to Ocean's sound that offers more than doom metal's simple, powerful grasp. The snare drum is placed with deadly, dreary accuracy throughout Nothing Grows, and there's a sense of Ocean's internal clock in the waning, bass-heavy tick of "First Reign" or "Salt"'s surprisingly introspective sweep. Gentle notes ring out over an unsettled whine of distortion in "Fall" -- that's before the downright demonic vocals appear -- and in its initial progressions "Salt" suggests the earliest primordial lunges of grunge before transitioning into an epic sweep closer to the exploration of Pelican. (In fact Ocean originally collaborated with Pelican producer Sanford Parker on Here Where Nothing Grows before scrapping those sessions and re-recording the album in their hometown.) By integrating genuine introspection or the occasional blast of conventional riffing, Ocean avoid drifting into that doom metal ether where faceless souls compete to see who can play slower or scarier. Of course Nothing Grows still isn't any kind of picnic. Its darkness lingers determinedly, like angels of death camping in your peripheral vision, and it offers no hope, only black ink and bones floating in the rising tide. But Here Where Nothing Grows is as musical as it is menacing, and that makes it doubly powerful.
Here Where Nothing Grows Review
by Johnny Loftus