Album Review: Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic by The Ocean Collective (Metal Blade)

German prog metallers, The Ocean (The Ocean Collective), released their 8th studio album, Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic, on the 25th September via Metal Blade Records.

The Ocean Collective were formed back in 2000 by guitarist Robin Staps. Their early years were unsettled, with over 40 different members joining and leaving in the first two years. They really only had a settled line up from around 2009. This is when they were recording for the albums Heliocentric and Anthropocentric which both came out in 2010. Another raft of changes came afterwards and today they stand as a 5 piece. Robin Staps looks after guitars, programming and backing vocals. Loïc Rossetti is the lead vocalist and Paul Seidel is on drums. On bass its Mattias Hägerstrand and the most recent addition, on synths is Peter Voigtmann.

The Ocean Collective Phanerozoic II

The Ocean released the first part of the Phanerozoic double album back in 2018. You can read a full review of that stunner here. Chronicling the full scope of the current Geologic era over two albums is an epic task and this second part, Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic, brings us through to modern day.

Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic comes with 8 tracks on it, weighing in at around 51 minutes in length. There are technically 16 tracks on the album, but the second half are pure instrumental versions of the 8 new songs. Triassic opens the gate as we head off on this sonic adventure. Atmosphere builds gently under a clean guitar melody. Samba stayed drum rhythms full you ears before a crunchy bass hits you with a groovy riff. Clean vocals come at you from a different plane of existence, melding with the music to create an ethereal vision. Then bang, out of nowhere an onslaught of guttural vocals hit alongside an explosion of distorted guitars.

With your core now stripped open, the band return to the gentler, introspective harmony as they delicately pick at your walls and pour melody through the forming cracks. Such is the skill and musicianship on offer across the whole of Phanerozoic II that you feel emotionally challenged, elevated and stripped back as you listen. It’s an experience, worthy of a theme park. Pay £5, go into a dark room, stick some headphones on and have this poured directly in to your ears. There will be queues round the block as people wait for their moment of enlightenment.

Well, that start had an impact and it doesn’t let up. Jurassic | Cretaceous follows the 8 and a half minute opener by being 13 and a half minutes long. The huge groove tones on the guitars swallow you whole before a gentle melody starts to blend in. Clever little drum beats that sound more like the sticks tapping each other fill gaps as your mind gets torn in two. The heavy riff makes you want to rock out but the mellow vocals make you want to sit in a dark room and think. Being such a long song, you can imagine the transitions and creativity on offer. Glorious heavy choruses bleed into gentle melodies. Screaming solos give way to atmospheric keys. Mini breakdowns chuck some hardcore vibes in near the end which in turn bleed into a fiery thrashy riff.

I mean, why not right, you have 14 minutes to play with.

Palaeocene is a shorter track at around 4 minutes and is a blast of heaviness and fury with huge power chords and quick drums. It’s a pit worthy track with a nice industrial tinge to the instruments that suddenly drops into a gentle jazz rhythm. This just makes the build back up even more impactful though. Eocene starts with a poppy melody and clean rock vocals. The drums are really cool, and I like the chorus, but it’s a bit of a change on an album full of change and I’m not in love with the main melody. Still, the only constant is change and the track evolves into a catchier number with a wicked little solo.

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Oligocene keeps the imaginative trend going with more ethereal synth and gentle drums. A little faded guitar melody beds nicely into the background in a instrumental that is mellow and dreamy. Miocene | Pliocene follows with a slow atmospheric build from guitars. Faded roared vocals join the main rhythm along with a big dollop of bass. Backing vocals join in, cleanly harmonising with the more aggressive vocals. It all combines beautifully to create an impactful sound. An emphatic chorus well get you nodding along as it arrives to a punch of volume and intensity.

Pleistocene has some serious foot tapping groove to its arty intro. The clean vocals are great and there is a wicked transition into a heavier part with a weaving melody and harsh vocals. The gentler verses are so perfectly layered and have a blues quality to them. It makes the jump into the chorus more impactful. I love this song, something that doubles down when we hit the death metal styled aggression of the end. Blackened screamed vocals, blasting drums and a speed riff pound you relentlessly in a glorious blast of extreme metal.

We close the album with Holocene. An imposing synth tone seems to sound a warning as the drums band out a repeated beat. The clean vocals are tinged with sadness as they fold themselves into the layered melody of the song. The violin solo is morose and emotional, perfectly suited to the song as it plays the album out leaving you deep in thought.

It’s certainly not music for the faint hearted or the throw away generation. It requires time, dedication and open mindedness but, give those things and the rewards are huge. There are so many layers to every single song, so much intricate and meticulously crafted detail that it can only be fully appreciated after multiple listens. The Ocean Collective have created an album that massively exceeds the term progressive and will surely be put on a pedestal as an album progressive bands aspire to even get near.

Grab a copy for yourself from the band on Bandcamp, here.

The Ocean Links

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  • Brendan Fisher

    Owner/Editor/Writer/YouTuber - Heavy Metal and reading, two things I have always loved so they are the two areas you will find most of my reviews. Post apocalyptic is my jam and I always have a book on the go and have for decades now. From a metal perspective, age has softened my inadequacies and I now operate with an open mind, loving many bands from many sub genres but having a particular admiration for the UK underground scene. In my other time, when not focused on Dad duties and work, I try to support the craft beer movement by drinking as much of it as I can and you will also find me out on the streets, walking. I love walking, I love exploring new places and snapping nature photos as I go.

Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic by The Ocean Collective (Metal Blade)
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