Hailing from Manchester, Oceansize are a prog/math/indie/metal/rock (depending on who you ask) five-piece specializing in obtuse, ever-changing time signatures (11/8 and 7/4 are routine) and oscillating between delicate harmonies and huge downtuned power chords. Unlike just about every other proggy-metally band around at the moment, they are more than just technically accomplished musicians: they actually know how to write coherent, enjoyable songs.

Mike Vennart, the frontman, wields a guitar and a pair of microphones (one of which has various effects applied to it). Steve Durose and "Gambler" complete the trio of six-strings, with the latter occasionally switching to keys, as does bassist Steven Hodson. Mark Heron's kit is strangely symmetrical: the high hat is mounted atop the kick, with the snare in front and a rack and a floor tom to each side. (If I were qualified to claim that this allows him to play more fluid, tom-laden drum parts than with a regular arrangement, I probably would.)

The sound of Effloresce, Oceansize's 2003 debut, is (relatively speaking) straightforward: well-constructed, textured rock music, often in strange time signatures, overflowing with single-string solos. Catalyst features a marvellous section where the drums and bass play 7/4 against the guitars' 3/4, while One Day All This Could Be Yours manages to cram a full progression from otherworldly vocal harmonies and sparse instrumentation into full-on rocking out into just over four minutes (making it Oceansize's shortest song to date, excluding interludes). Meanwhile, Massive Bereavement skirts dangerously close to being tossed into the nu-metal dustbin, and Amputee (apparently the first song the band wrote) is pretty much a straight-up power chordy song with tremolo-picked lead lines. Remember Where You Are and You Wish elaborate on that theme, alternating between it and layers of echoing arpeggiated guitars.

Everyone Into Position (2005) features a number of heavier, angrier songs: neither the driving drop-C, double-kicked climax of No Tomorrow nor A Homage to a Shame's pounding dissonance and bouts of screaming would be out of place if performed by a lesser metal band. However, tracks like New Pin, Music For A Nurse (used in an Orange advertising campaign) and Ornament/The Last Wrongs are signs of things to come: relatively straightforward melodies overlaid to form delicate "soundscapes" (for want of a better word).

Following in this vein, Commemorative____T-Shirt, the unconventionally-named opener of Oceansize's 2007 album Frames, takes its time to build up to brief outbursts of ardour, and can be seen as an introduction to the more up-front Unfamiliar, into which it flows without a break (although introductions are generally shorter than the piece that follows :-)). This forms the (excellent) template for most of the album. Sleeping Dogs and Dead Lions and the latter half of Trail of Fire deviate back to a rawer sound, and An Old Friend of the Cristy's sounds like an (unsuccessful, in my opinion) attempt at some kind of doom metal track, but otherwise Frames has a more contemplative, delicate feel than previous albums. (Live, Vennart repeatedly apologised for playing "another slow one" before launching into new tracks, but needn't have worried, given the rapturous reception each received.)

Tool tend to be mentioned when listing similar bands, but I'm not sure that's a fair comparison. They have bizarro time signatures and long songs in common, but those characteristics are neither particularly rare nor define either band. Comparisons with Amplifier (fellow Mancunians, with whom Oceansize have toured), Mew and Pure Reason Revolution are fairer (and you'd probably get away with adding A Perfect Circle to the list if you really want to get Maynard involved). It might be obvious that I think Oceansize are rather good; if you like your rock protracted, intricate and slightly metal-plated, I suspect you will agree.

Oh, also, they have a Guitar Hero tour bus!

I have neglected to remark upon the various EPs; this would be because I don't own them (yet)...

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