Album Review: Oceans of Slumber – Starlight and Ash

Album Review: Oceans of Slumber - Starlight and Ash
Reviewed by Richard Oliver

Oceans Of Slumber are a band that from their inception have been on an evolutionary trajectory with each and every album seeing the band progress and modify their sound. They have come a long way from their progressive metal origins on debut album Aetherial with the biggest shift arriving in the form of singer Cammie Beverly in 2014 which saw the band start shifting to a more atmospheric and doomy sound with each consecutive album going further into doomier territories with the influence of bands such as Anathema and Katatonia looming over their sound ably aided by the sultry, soulful and achingly beautiful vocals by Cammie. But now sees the band make their biggest shift in sound since 2014 but one that makes perfect sense within the context of the band and the evolution of their sound over the past 8 years.

One thing that can easily be said about Starlight And Ash (which is the fifth album from the band) is that this is certainly not a metal album. It has its metal edges but much like many of the doomy bands that have influenced Oceans Of Slumber they have moved on from the core metal sound of the band whilst still retaining their prior output as an influence. The band have billed this album as ‘new southern gothic’ and that is a very apt description of the shift in sound that Oceans Of Slumber have undertaken taking the dark side of Americana and black spirituals and mixing it with influences from artists such as Chelsea Wolfe and the grizzled songwriter style of Nick Cave and Tom Waits but with that undeniable soulfulness that has been an integral part of the bands sound since the Winter album.

Album Review: Oceans of Slumber – Starlight and Ash

The change in sound is apparent from album opener The Waters Rising from the electronic opening to the more understated approach the band take to their songwriting. This same approach is taken for Hearts Of Stone though there is a heart wrenching and powerful chorus to this one which just makes me fall head over heels in love with Cammie. The bands Texan roots come to the fore in the stunning The Lighthouse which has a deep Americana influence but with very poignant and emotional performances and songwriting whilst the electronic influences make a big part of the absolutely stunning The Hanging Tree with delicate synths providing the foundation of the song as well as the use of electronic drums. Highlights on the latter part of the album include the funereal atmosphere of Salvation, whilst Star Altar harks back to the progressive doom of the bands last couple of albums though one of the most surprising songs is Just A Day which metamorphosizes from a serene ballad to doom-laden sorrow before closing with a heavy and intensive conclusion and the most metal sounding moment on the album. Oceans Of Slumber continue their tradition of including a cover version on the album and this time it is House Of The Rising Sun by The Animals which gets the Oceans Of Slumber treatment with the band giving it a dark Americana reimagining with some stunning violin and cello additions that make the arm hairs stand on end.

Oceans Of Slumber have delivered an absolute stunner of an album with Starlight And Ash. Some fans may bemoan the straying away from the bands metal sound but the bands metal past still makes up the beating heart of this album - it’s just not as sonically heavy as previous releases but it is undeniably Oceans Of Slumber. From the trajectory the band have taken from Winter to The Banished Heart to the self-titled album this shift in sound makes perfect sense and it truly sounds like the album that Oceans Of Slumber were meant to release. Dark, haunting, soulful and beautiful this is one of the must hear releases of 2022 and one that has impressed me no end. It is an album that will appeal to metalheads and non-metalheads alike such is the strength of the songwriting and it makes me truly excited for the future of the band.

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