~reviewed by Eric Rasmussen and Joel Steudler
Since good fortune (or so it seemed) smiled upon us and Starvox received two copies of ...And Oceans' new album Cypher, we originally decided to run two reviews - the more the merrier after all, right? As it turned out though, Cypher was too much for any one man to handle... thus reviewers Eric and Joel braved the depths of this ambitious and impressive musical work and collaborated to bring you the following joint review.
Eric: When someone asks you what you think of Finland, what's the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it has always been: Finland? What the hell is that? If you asked me that today, however, I'd have to tell you about the Finnish group ...And Oceans. Their new CD is Cypher, and it's kind of like a drug. Addictive, and full of side effects that may or may not include: paranoia, depression, manic episodes, and general psychosis.
Joel: The really confusing thing about the album (and there are actually a number of confounding elements therein) is that the music manages to be at the same time exciting and yet full of hopeless oppression. A constant flow of hard hitting riffs propel things along at a manic pace throughout, but the vocal approach is undeniably bleak. The unsettling dichotomy sounds like what might happen if Rammstein and Ministry got together after a drunken night on the town and inexplicably reproduced - creating a sullen, angry child who liked to play with synthesizers and thrash out on the guitar.
Eric: Track 2 provides a good example of that effect. "Picturesque" starts out with a heavy groove to attract unwary metal fans. In no time you'll be swaying your head and randomly shouting "yeah!" with your fist raised into the air (only to lower it again, when you realize people have begun to stare). After ...And Oceans has cleverly tricked you into listening to the song, they start introducing unusual elements into the sound. There is a kind of hollow sounding melody that slips into the music and makes for a haunting backdrop to an otherwise normal metal song. Kenny's convincing and truly psychotic vocals then turn the song into a mix of paranoia and hopeless depression that will have you bouncing along merrily until grief overcomes you and your conciousness decides to go on a temporary vacation.
Joel: A subversive undercurrent runs through the whole album, slowly chipping away at any rational worldview you may have been clinging to beforehand. The lyrics that are intelligible are universally downbeat and worrisome. If ...And Oceans set out to strip their listeners of the will to carry on in the fragile and desolate world we inhabit, they sure did a good job of it. The jolly electronic blips that dance over many of the songs seem to say 'It's okay to continue listening! You don't need to turn this off' but in reality, all hope is lost. There is no reason to go on. Nothing we do makes any difference in the grand scheme of things. You may as well give in and accept your sad, unavoidable fate, where noth---
Eric: As much as I hate admitting it, Joel is completely right. The reason I was excited about getting Cypher is because I really liked ...And Ocean's AMGOD. AMGOD was a decidedly upbeat metal affair. The band took the symphonic-meets-metal-wall-of-sound approach that Dimmu Borgir is known for, and super imposed it over happy techno keyboards. This made for a catchy and altogether enjoyable CD that, while containing moments of despair and hate, was pretty exciting and listenable. If you can imagine taking that style of music and adding a dash of Edgar Allen Poe, the pain and despair one gets from reading a detailed Van Gogh biography, and some choice selections from "Asylum Sounds at Night: Volume 1," you'll know exactly what to expect from Cypher.
Joel: My despair is measureless. Nonetheless, I will definitely recommend buying this album to fans of any branch of metal. The band's musicianship is impeccable, and they create a unique sound once again. You may not feel like getting out of bed once you've listened to it a couple times. In fact you may lack the willpower to do much of anything. Why prolong your suffering by struggling to make your way in a world that only seeks to crush your spi--- AGH! Must... not... succumb... to... negativity! Man, after reviewing the new hate-fueled Internicine album last night and the unceasingly bleak 'Cypher' tonight, I -really- need to bust out a Helloween album and let some happy-metal vibes carry me away.
Eric: I can say, quite safely, that if
you're inclined to listen to subversive music hell-bent on tearing down
your sanity and radically altering your perception of everything around
you, then Cypher is the album for you. You can't avoid its message forever.
Listen to all the Helloween you like, just as Joel will, but in the end
you'll realize that the mood of nothingness Cypher inspires will prevail
and continue to provide a whole lot of nothingness. ...And Oceans have
taken their work to a new level of art, it's just not the kind of level
anyone on the edge of suicide should be visiting. If you've got a strong
will and appreciate artistic metal, give Cypher a listen, and don't say
you weren't warned.
...And Oceans is:
...And Oceans - Official Site:
Century Media Records: