It doesn’t feel like very long since I sat down to review post-hardcore quintet Being As An Ocean’s second record How We Both Wondrously Perish, and I realise that it hasn’t actually been too long since I did so. Fourteen months have passed to be precise, and not knowing a whole lot about what’s involved in making a record I’m not entirely sure if that should be considered a short time or not. I patiently waited fifteen years for a new Refused record, and seeing as I chose to review Being As An Ocean due to my disappointment in the legendary Swedes fourth I don’t think it really matters much. The bands third full-length follows a slightly lacklustre second, and it also marks a firm improvement other both that and Freedom.
I’d like to assume that most readers will be familiar with the bands previous two outings, and if not then this review may not answer whatever questions you had of the bands third, self-titled follow-up. Throughout I couldn’t help but look back and consider their first and second, and so will take a similar angle with this review, although it limits the usefulness of the review. Being As An Ocean frequently, although only slightly, lacks the bite of Dear G-d, but marks a firm improvement over How We Both Wondrously Perish, feeling almost a continuation of that record, one which sounds more confident, and in turn more convincing, the missteps of last year glossed over this time around. Gone for example are the artier segments which plagued How We Both Wondrously Perish for myself, with the thirty second fillers at the end of Judas, Our Brother and Forgetting Is Forgiving The I the closest the record comes to sounding unnecessarily postmodern. It seems to have settled for a more streamlined sound, and there’s something about naming a record after the band who’ve made it which feels like a statement – ‘this is us‘, and that seems true of Being As An Ocean’s eponymous release, with the record very much the sound of finding your footing, and after a few line-up changes over the year it’s fitting. Although not changing too much over the last thirteen months enough has changed here to assign the record that quality, and the Being As An Ocean (band and album) sound(s) well at ease, tracks such as Sleeping Sicaril and St. Peter a tree made of the roots planted last year. The aforementioned aggression of Dear G-d is back, albeit somewhat subdued in comparison, and the more melodic route taken on HWBWP has joined it, making for a record which flits between the two styles, and often merges them very well. It’s partly so effective due to the combined efforts of vocalists Joel Quartuccio and Michael McGough, the latter of whom is much better utilised this time around, particularly on The Zealots Blindfold, during an electrifying chorus. As a big fan of McGough’s previous band The Elijah it’s good to see him making waves within the scene, and his performance here cements him as one of the genre’s most gifted clean vocalists. As was the case with The Elijah, who also used throaty shouts and immense cleans, the juxtaposition of the two tones isn’t particularly unique (comparisons can easily made at this moment in time to Alexisonfire and Underoath more suitably), but it certainly works throughout, with Being As An Ocean taking influence and inspiration sonically from the bands two record strong discography. The result is a full-bodied as a result, a confident release which should please fans old and new, capturing elements of each and conveying them well.
As you can compare the sound of two records, who can also compare the cover art, and doing so between Being As An Ocean and How We Both Wondrously Perish tells a certain story. Things are noticeably darker this round as a whole, and although lyrics still centre primarily on faith you gather that thinks aren’t as hopeful as they once were, particularly when considering the narrative at each end of the record considering a father and son who have grown apart. ‘Daddy, please stop hurting Mummy… Please, daddy, I’m getting scared again’ Quartuccio shouts, and even though the line reminds me of Eminem’s When I’m Gone the song hits hard, and it’s an emphatic and emotional finish to a record which is often gloriously dark, and dwells enough to make that blackness a plus musically speaking. Reprises are found in the spoken word sections of St. Peter and The Zealot’s Blindfold, but Quartuccio seems more content to shout than soliloquise for the most part, although when he does shift for the poetic path he often leaves his mark, conveying his lyrics with heartfelt passion, as if he means every word.
Following How We Both Wondrously Perish so quickly may seem like a rushed risk, but Being As An Ocean sounds anything but, polished and concise instead, flowing well from track to track without too many weaker moments, particularly during the first half of the album. Although not strictly top-heavy, the second half of Being As An Ocean does present a slight lapse in quality, although it could simply be that it begins with the excellent St. Peter, which goes on to overshadow most of the latter stage. Predominantly spoken word, the track feels upbeat amidst some of the heavier songs as Joel tells of a German inn and the saintly preacher he finds within. It’s poetry well-penned, recapturing some essence of Dear G-d‘s The Sea Always Seems To Put Me At Ease, and then eclipsing that nostalgic flickering as McGough delivers what is arguably the records finest chorus, whilst capturing a glimpse of this records tone in doing so. ‘We are all given dark and light / a beautiful contrast in black and white / You can hide in the darkness or strive for healthy progress’ he sings, and it’s easy to relate his words to the rest of the record, which is one that shifts often between aggressive and angelic, the two vocalists tending to make the final judgement depending on which takes the lead, the ocean rising and swelling in time. At times the production tends to favour the vocals, and as a result they’re sometimes too loud, at least enough to detract from the instrumental side of the record, which is as a whole very good, the breakdown of sorts on Little Richie packing a punch as a highlight. That being said, Quartuccio, McGough and co. are at their best on St. Peter, as is the record, and it begins a second half in which the tracks towards its end don’t seem to hit as hard as those which came before them, with the chorus of The World As A Stage falling particularly flat.
Seeing as this review has centred somewhat around previous efforts I’ll end it the same way. As a listener regularly frustrated by How We Both Wondrously Perish I find myself much happier with Being As An Ocean as a whole. In a way it feels like the record which should have followed Dear G-d when McGough joined the band, but now that it’s here I’m not going to complain too much about the wait, even though it has been relatively short. If you’ve yet to hear either of Being As An Ocean’s two previous records I’d recommend them, even if only to truly appreciate their third, which you can also listen to here, and might want to.
Listen to: Ain’t Nobody Perfect / St. Peter / …And Their Consequence