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
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
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)...