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The Ocean: Part 1
An Introduction to possibly the greatest metal band at the moment.
Robin Stap left his small hometown in Germany and moved to Berlin to study in 2000. He formed a musical collective where over 40 musicians contributed to various projects, before the band The Ocean took to the stage in 2002. The lineup of The Ocean has obviously varied wildly over the last two decades. Even today, a member you might see in a live clip, might not be in the next one. Their fellow countrymen Rammstein have kept the original lineup of six members since they founded, and it has become part of their musical identity. Rammstein are very much a nuclear family unit and have made creative decisions based on this structure. In The Ocean, Robin Stap is the musical director, lyric writer, composer, and manager in addition to his guitar playing. Torge Ließmann, the original drummer with the band, once complained that Stap was writing drum riffs that were impossible to play. Stap isn’t even a drummer. He was hearing the beat in his head and wanted Ließmann to play it as he wanted him to. He wouldn’t take no for an answer in most cases, and Ließmann would eventually learn to play the riff. Eventually though, Ließmann left the band. This kind of thing seems to happen on and off with the band. But rather than inhibit the creative output, this seems to have lit a torch for it.
The Ocean have two distinct musical era’s. They released four albums between 2003 and 2007 with an assortment of vocalists. Here is the thing, they were all great vocalists and if you are into non-clean vocals in Metal you will enjoy listening to Meta, Nico, Markus and Mike. This version of the band were explosively heavy, but showed a talent for melody and subtlety that belied the trappings of their genre. I intend to do a deep dive into this era of the band at another stage.
Sometimes a member joins a band and has an immediate, explosive effect that forever changes the trajectory of their careers. Think Stevie Nicks with Fleetwood Mac. Bruce Dickinson with Iron Maiden. In approximately 2009 a man from Switzerland met Robin Stap and The Ocean. He jammed with them and then promptly presented them with some lyrics. These are the lyrics:
And God said:
Let the waters bring forth, abundantly,
the moving creature that hath life
And fowl that may fly
above the Earth in the open firmament
of Heaven ...Or so do some people believe
The song was called “Firmament”, and it’s off of their album ‘Heliocentric’ (2010). It starts as, to quote Robin Stap, “A fairly typical Ocean song”. It’s got a cool bass line, tight guitars, insane drum fills, and soulful melodic vocals from Loïc Rossetti (who I hopefully did justice to with the foreshadowing). And then everything after the 4:13 mark is pure magic.
‘Heliocentric’ was a concept album, a critique of Christian belief systems from Genesis through to Copernicus. It was followed up five months later by ‘Anthropocentric’ which continued the philosophical musings of its sister album with equal high-brow verve, skill, and passion.
The Ocean were promoting their seventh album ‘Pelagial’ when I first saw them live (complete with a full video backdrop of underwater imagery - in a club in Ireland). Another concept album, this time based on the crushing depths of the ocean itself. It was also their softest and most melodic album. It was very nearly an instrumental album. New vocalist Loïc Rossetti had a health scare and his vocals were added after the music was recorded. Both the instrumental and the version with vocals are available, with slightly different mixes.
Their last two albums ‘Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic’ and ‘Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic / Cenozoic’ are yet again, concept albums. This time detailing the geologic Phanerozoic eon musically and the ferocity of human emotion lyrically.
They get better with time.
Later tonight I am actually going to see them live for the third time. Part 2 of this post will be my filterless account of the experience. Til next week!