I've said it once – or maybe a thousand times; I just can't seem to keep track of how many times I've had to discuss bands experimenting with their sounds. As I've reiterated over and over again, experimenting with particular sounds is like playing Russian Roulette with your entire fan base on the receiving end of the gun. Unfortunately, for tonight's band, their fan base just took some lead to the face.
Oceano, a five-piece deathcore outfit from Chicago, IL., was formed back in 2006 and since then has accumulated an enormous fan base in the heavier metal scene and participated in and headlined multiple different tours throughout North America. I've been a fan since the earliest demos were released and I've always stuck behind the sound the members have created, but after this day, I'm going to start to question their creative thought process. The band's third full-length release on Earache Records, which is entitled Incisions, dropped on October 1. I picked it up and slowly began to listen to the rest of the tracks that weren't released or leaked as singles. After listening to the "clean" vocals that appeared in "Self Exploited Whore," I was extremely weary of what I could expect to appear in the rest of the 45-minute release.
I can confirm that Incisions is similar to Stray from the Path's Anonymous in the sense that it starts off strong, but it goes downhill after a few songs. The only problem for Oceano is that, once they start on that downhill slope, they go so far down and the remaining songs are no help at attempting to pull themselves back up. While I may be bashing this album quite a bit already, it's abundantly clear that Adam Warren still has the same destructive vocals that we've heard in Depths and Contagion, which is a major bonus for old fans. The band also stays consistent with the extremely strong and well-produced breakdowns, especially in "Slow Murder" – which contains one of the best slower breakdowns I've heard come from this genre in quite a while.
Now for the harsh reality of the album. The harshly whispered/spoken vocals take up roughly one third of the album and it's one of the most disappointing things I've heard this year. Instead of experimenting with a new element, Oceano takes the idea of whispered/spoken vocals and adds it to half the songs on Incisions and even more generously gives us a nearly five minute track ("Embrace Nothingness") of nothing but these dark, spoken vocals that sound like a half-assed scream most of the time. I've heard the spoken vocal bits used as intros, outros and even lead-ups to breakdowns, but not as five minute tracks – and most certainly not used in the majority of a band's album. This doesn't even include the weird and totally out of place clean vocals that appear in "Self Exploited Whore" that honestly made me chuckle and wonder if it was a joke when I first heard it leak about a month and a half ago. It was about time the members of Oceano mixed up their sound a little, but I wasn't expecting a band as heavy as them to go practically nu-metal on their fans.
The parts of the album that sound like normal Oceano are what kept this review from receiving a much lower score. The fast and heavy low vocals mixed with the well-executed instrumentation worked so well with the breakdowns, but every single time a spoke vocal part came in (excluding the one in "Slow Murder"), I just wanted to lose it. It was heartbreaking to hear such a strong band of their magnitude just crumble with such a bummer of a release – especially after returning from an out-of-nowhere hiatus. Oceano will still remain one of my favorite deathcore bands simply because of previous works, but did they ever drop the ball on the decision to add in elements that make them sound like they're now in a completely different genre.