Whenever a band announces their second studio album, there is always a sense of trepidation among the fan base as to whether it will live up to the expectations set by their first, or whether it will effectively end the band’s career. So, when hardcore band Being As An Ocean announced their second album along with the announcement that two members were splitting from the band, there was a sense of unease to say the least. After all, this was the band who released the superb Dear G-d as their debut which is a masterpiece which would be difficult enough to hold up to without the departure of those involved in its conception.
However, things got better very quickly. When it was announced that Connor Denis would be stepping in on drums and Michael McGough (previously of The Elijah) would be joining on guitar, this was the first sign that album two could surpass the legacy of the first. Then the release of the artwork caused a stir, with the image supposedly encompassing many of the album’s lyrical themes. Before too long the first single was released, Death’s Great Black Wing Scrapes The Air, and proved that the band were back and stronger than ever. Thank God.
To fully appreciate this album as a whole, it takes a variety of different listens. First of all, this is an album that has to be focused on. To really take on everything it has to offer the listener really has to sit and embrace it. Once played through and absorbed musically, then it is worth sitting and reading the lyrics along to the music, to grasp the extent of what vocalist Joel Quartuccio is trying to put across in his poetry. Then, finally, another listen to look out for all the subtle overlays put in the album musically, be it the extensive range of sublime drum fills or the trumpet solo that nobody predicted in Mothers. Only after all of this, can somebody really understand on how many levels this album is a true work of art. This is not background noise or music to be churned out on the radio once in a while; this is a collection of tracks that mean something. Something important too.
Opening with Mediocre Shakespeare, this track acts as a continuation of what the first album represented, with heavy down-tuned guitars and drums that kick you right in the stomach. And, of course, with Quartuccio’s distinctive vocal style powering throughout. The second single of the album L’exquisite Douleur follows the first single and gives McGough the chance to show off his clean vocals, and prove to those cynical fans that clean vocals belonged within the band’s material. As the album continues to progress, it is unrelenting in hitting hard with powerful lyrics and the awe-inspiring music to accompany it.
A real highlight from this record is Grace, Teach Us What We Lack which builds up amazingly with three different vocals intertwining for a brilliant climax (Johnny O’hagan appearing to do guest vocals). In essence this track offers all the same features as those before it, however the nature of the lyrics and the fact it has one of the few choruses to feature in the band’s material makes it stand out to be a favourite for live shows.
Where this album stands out from Dear G-d is in the final two songs; Mothers and Natures. The delicacy and mellowness of these pieces is worlds apart from what people would expect from the band, and this works amazingly in closing the album in a way which feels beautifully conclusive. Mothers holds some similarity to other tracks, with the vocal style still gruff enough in places to be associated with the softer part of previous pieces, but the trumpet solo and brush sticking makes this piece a very adventurous move for the band. Then the album closer Natures is a masterclass in compression, with the drums being heavily edited to sound unique and almost ethereal. The vocals on this track really are what makes the piece however, with the lyrics swimming in reverb and mixed with a vocoder-like effect which works beautifully to provide fragility and a gentleness this track deserved.
There is no way to conclude this other than to say that this is an essential album to own.
Watch the official video for L’exquisite Douleur below.
How We Both Wondrously Perish is out now.
Words > Stephen Morris