..And Oceans – As In Gardens, So In Tombs Review

…and Oceans have mostly operated in a delicately balanced duality of aggressively rich and textured melodic black metal—a seemingly simple concept that is rarely well-executed. Yet these Finns somehow make finding that sweet spot look easy. And as dialed in as the band sounded on 2020’s Cosmic World Mother, there’s something in the rhythm and feel of these songs that really sticks the landing.

The second release of …and Oceans with this particular lineup, which includes Finntroll’s Vreth on vocals, As in Gardens, So in Tombs veers only slightly from the group’s 2020 refresh. Yet it feels less like a sequel or continuation in sound than one might think on first impression. Though not as immediately obvious, the keys are, if not in frequency than in the production’s pecking order, more prominent. To the album’s benefit, their purpose is not to steer or guide so much as to give these ten songs that aforementioned …and Oceans texture, the difference between this effort and the effort two short years ago being how often the keys closely track the riffs here and how smoothly they layer songs when they don’t.

It’s been a while since a full-length melodic black metal album hit me quite like this one. Most either lean into the keys to the detriment of the riffs, or simply fall flat in songwriting. Last year, I am the Night’s debut came close to striking the desired balance but ultimately fell short in songwriting. …and Oceans’ Cosmic World Mother to some extent, too, though it was less in the songwriting and more in pacing and cohesiveness. Ceremonial Castings’ re-recordings have been an embarrassment of riches, but it feels a bit like cheating to treat those the same as new, wholly original releases. Maybe Seth’s La morsure du Christ. Regardless, from front to back, this one from …And Oceans is incredibly addicting, and lacking for nothing.

There’s no secret as to why this album hits as hard as it does. It’s the songs. All ten of them. …and Oceans are that rare band that can make a four and a half-minute song hit the kind of emotional extremes you’d normally hear in a 20-minute epic, without the inherent trouble in design of keeping the listener occupied in the lulls. That may be the most impressive thing about As in Gardens, So in Tombs; an album of emotionally diverse songs that express those feelings so efficiently and talk to each other so well. And though brevity is a highlight, you’ll still lose yourself in a few new things with repeated listens.

Album highlights are only difficult to identify because the real impact of As in Gardens So in Tombs is in the whole. That said, the march of “Cloud Heads” and depth of “Likt tornen genom kott” are excellent exercises in effective contrast and exemplify the album’s richness. That the band sounds equally comfortable in manipulated frenzy and disarming calm speaks to the rare chemistry amongst its musicians. If …and Oceans has bottled that magic here, I can only hope this lineup, and the frequent output, holds.

Posted by Chris C

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.