As I write this review, I am in fact listening to Pelagial for the first time myself. This is going to be quite the experience. Usually when people write reviews of albums they have listened to them all the way through multiple times and really dissected the music fully. I want to give a different point of view, because most people when reading reviews are listening for the first time. I have already read about this album a bunch and am really excited to take it in. From what I have heard it is a concept album which relates sinking to the bottom of the ocean with the struggle of life. Lyrical analyses takes a while so I probably won’t get too deep into that and instead focus on first-impression things that stand out to me.
The albums is split into 5 sections from what I can tell based on song titles, the mesopelagic part must be the surface of the ocean, bathyapelagic is the layer underneath that, abyssopelagic is the depths and Hadopelagic is the ocean floor. The final two songs (again, haven’t heard them yet) are names demersal and benthic, which are probably a reflection/tie it all together sort of thing of the album.
Mesopelagic: Into the uncanny does have the feeling like we are embarking on a long journey. I really like extensive the use of the piano so far. One thing The Ocean [Collective] has struggled with in their previous album is the mixing of the vocals. Having seen them live, the singer has a good enough voice, it just never quite was balanced right with the instruments, often getting muddied during heavier sections and losing clarity. This is not the case anymore, every word comes out clear the first time, and he sounds fantastic.
Now Bathyalpelagic I is starting. I now notice that the song titles directly represent my original assumption that they are relating sinking to the bottom of the ocean to the struggle of man, each song title has the part of the ocean that we are in right now, and then what the song is about as it relates to us. Bathypelagic I: Impasses for example uses ocean themes words (drifting, floating) in conjunction with the story of a relationship that came to an impasse. Both parties wanted things out of the relationship that the other could not provide. I feel as though we are just scratching the surface however (see what I did there?)
I thought the sections of the album would string together as one song in several movements, but each movement instead is its own idea. Not sure if I like that, but each song so far has enough content to keep my interest
There is a lot of groovy rhythms that are not typical of The Ocean, especially in this song at 2:58. It grabs your attention, only 2 notes in a repeating rhythm, almost like a breakdown. I like it.
Now we are getting to the Abyssopelagic section. The tone has turned darker here, fitting for the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by water for miles in all directions. The introduction of a violin helps to get the minor key in the listeners ear and let them know that there are some sad feelings here.
Part 2, signals of anxiety, the intro you can hear an ambient sound of water flowing around the perimeter of a submarine, as it slowly drifts through the depths. The deafening silence and minimalism alone tells the story to come. Again ocean themed lyrics come in “she was getting close to the shore”, this must be a memory that the singer is having from near the bottom of the ocean, thinking about what he left behind up above. Having anxiety about if he ever should have come, signals of anxiety. The vocals are especially powerful in this song, it repeats the same stanza twice in the second half, and then the ambient sounds of the depths come back. I sense now is the beginning of the end for the protagonist of the story.
Those are some sexy diminished chords on Hadopelagic I: Omen of the Deep. Once again the recurring ambience comes in without any words in this track.
Part 2, Let Them Believe is 9 minutes long, and the only section of the Hadopelagic with lyrics. They split the track after only a 1:07 transition in part 1, they wanted to simply remind the listener of the journey they embarked on at the beginning that the signals of anxiety distracted them, and the protagonist, from.
The whole song is in alternating 2-3 meter, but it’s really a 6/8. It is a very interesting groove. At 4:20 the piano and violin are playing together polyphonically. I now realize that the piano was used in the bathypelagic section and the violin in the abyssopelagic. Combining them here is an excellent use of motives. Usually a motive is a short sequence of notes that repeats throughout a song or album, but in this case it is simply the timbre of the instrument.
WOW that drop at 7:07 was so well done. All of the instruments drop off at 6:47, then slowly one by one come back in, building to the climactic moment where they finally tell the message that this section is about : “let them believe in themselves, and let them live with their contradictions.” This goes back to my previous post about The Great Metal War, The Ocean is taking a side for atheism here. The whole time that we are sinking to the ocean, the protagonist is having doubts about the faith of mankind in popular religions. When we finally hit rock bottom, quite literally, he realizes that human strength is found not in faith in a god, but in faith in one’s self.
Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance has a negative, foreboding tone to it. The Demersal zone of the ocean is almost the deepest part, so we are almost there. These last 2 tracks are the only ones that do not have the suffix “pelagic” in the first part of the title. I’m not sure what the significance of this is yet, but I’m sure there is something. This song is the first one to use mostly aesthetic or “screaming” vocals. Overall the album slowly became more and more aesthetic oriented than clean vocal oriented. The deccelerando for the last few minutes of this song are a really cool effect, as the vessel we are in approaches the very absolute bottom of the ocean, it slows down preparing to stop. Another awesome musical effect in this album.
Now we are entering the Benthic zone: The Origin Of Our Wishes. The guitars and drums drone on at a repeating slow pace, and the vocals often follow suit. It’s as if the entire album is winding down, the entire vessel is running out of momentum. There are many false stops, where the song seems like it is going to be over, then continues at an even slower rate. This is the kind of story you can’t tell with just words. “There’s no one here. No one to hold down here, All dead.” Are the closing lines of the song. The protagonist went on this journey searching for something, something that he did not find. And now the vessel, out of energy and breathable air, will be his tomb.
(this is the instrumental version and as of now only one available to share with you in this way)
In conclusion: I really need to listen to this again. And again. And again. Not just because I didn’t fully understand it, because I there are many parts I want to hear again. There was not much complexity harmonically, or rhythmically (compared to other progressive musicians), but the complexity of the album is when you view it as a whole from start to finish. The way the songs transform as you metaphorically go deeper and deeper into the ocean, the way the story is told, that’s what makes it so stellar. The songs that stood out to me were Signals of Anxiety, Let Them Believe, The Origin of Our Wishes, and Disequilibrated (notice these are the finales of each section of the album). While they all can be listened to by themselves and still be excellent tunes, listening to the entire album front to back is the way to go. It’s hard for people to appreciate music like this when they only have time to listen to a few songs, or when they listen to one song to sample the whole album. You have to prepare yourself for a musical journey to the bottom of the ocean and press play at the start and then let it go, no skips, no repeats, no shuffle. For me, it’s a journey I hope to take many more times in the future.