Editors Note: We are re-sharing this post because Oceanic was just remastered and repressed on vinyl. Go get a copy!
Love! Obsession! Incest! Suicide!
These things are all wrapped up into one grandiose majestic masterpiece of post-ambient-shoegaze-prog-metal. What more could you ask for!?
The concept / theme for 2002’s Oceanic (the second full-length album by the now defunct Isis, R.I.P.), is based on a dude that is all bummed out and fed up with life. He meets a girl and becomes obsessed and finds out that the girl has been hooking up with her own brother. Which bums the dude out even more (understandably) and he commits suicide by drowning himself in the ocean. Oh, the drama!
I know it may seem kind of pointless to write an article telling you to adopt an album that is so well revered and celebrated, but the other day as I was listening to the really cool re-release of Celestial (you can get on that here) it got me on another Isis kick again. So naturally, I gravitated back to Oceanic and after listening through it once again I realized just how important of an album it really is. Oceanic is and was a total game changer for the world of metal.
Isis were probably one of the most creative and original metal bands of all time and Oceanic has been cited as the album to spawn the post-metal (or ambient-metal, or metal-gaze, or whatever you wanna call it) genre. It’s pretty rare that a band releases an album that can be cited for creating a new sub genre of music which basically inspired hundreds of other bands to try and emulate their sound. A number of bands like Cult of Luna, Intronaut, Callisto, Mouth of the Architect, and The Ocean Collective are groups that I think draw significantly from Oceanic and the overall Isis / post-metal sounds. If you were to research pretty much any heavy or somewhat-heavy band, more times than not you will eventually find an interview where one of the members mentions Isis as a main influence. It’s pretty much standard at this point and it’s usually because they fell in love with Oceanic.
I was a little late to the Isis band wagon party. I didn’t discover the band’s awesomeness until their 2004 release Panopticon and after buying that album I became obsessed (my creepy term for researching and getting to know a band) with all things Isis. I went out and bought Celestial and Oceanic. I probably should have waited to buy Celestial because I didn’t get around to listening to it until about month later because I was so enthralled by Oceanic. It was everything I loved about Panopticon, but with a more organic vibe and echo. The big roomy sound on Aaron Harris’ drums is amazing and the effects used by the rest of the band, especially the ones used on Jeff Caxide’s bass are so reverby and warm sounding. The vibe almost make you feel like you’re lost at sea. The whole album is a captivating journey from start to finish.
There is one track on Oceanic that stands out and absolutely blows every other song that has every existed out of the water, “Weight”. It is by far the most hauntingly beautiful song on the album and every time I listen to it I am reminded at just how amazing of a band Isis was. I love how the song starts out with just some slight bass picking from Caxide and how it slowly builds over an 11 minute time span and eventually expands into total swirling chaos, with the highlight of the song being the female vocals added by Ayal Naor and Maria Christopher from the Massachusetts based indie-pop band 27. These female vocals are buried so low in the mix that they almost sound like ghosts chants coming in and out of the song. It’s a beautiful combination with such epic instrumentation.
Even though the album is categorized in the “metal” genre it is far from what you would typically think of as heavy metal music. There’s no cheesy guitar solos or pulse-pounding, double-bass rhythms. Oceanic is filled with slight electronic texture, ghostly female vocals, slow paced instrumentation with only occasional screams and big distortion.
Now here’s where I have to make my confession… Oceanic is not my favorite album of Isis’ it’s actually probably my third favorite. Behind their final album Waving Radiant and Panopticon, but the thing about Oceanic is that it is probably the most complete album from the band. The way Isis were able to execute the aquatic concept with the tones and moods of the songs is absolutely masterful. While the band’s other albums may have songs or riffs that I prefer over the ones in Oceanic, these still have the best ability to sink into your soul and make you experience the story that the band is trying to tell. This album is an all time classic and is a great starting point to the genius that is all things Isis.
So if you don’t already own a copy of Oceanic, you are in luck because Robotic Empire jsut re-released the album on vinyl, whcih you can order here (in case you didn’t notice the link above). Trust me, you need to make this your next music purchase. You can’t just download it though, you need to actually buy a physical copy of it. The artwork and the cerebral outline of the story listed inside the booklet are important to truly appreciating this business. Also, you need to set some time aside for it, because Oceanic is an album you have to listen to it all the way through to really appreciate the journey that Isis is taking you on. It truly is a serious piece of musical art.