Sounds | ...And Oceans, Within Fire and Crystal
Het Finse zes man sterke symfonische blackmetalgezelschap ...And Oceans draait inmiddels al weer meer dan 25 jaar mee in de scene. In die tijd hebben een vijftal albums geproduceerd, meerdere splits gedaan en een aantal compilaties uitgebracht. Op 27 januari a.s. komt hun nieuwste wapenfeit op de markt: As in Gardens, so in Tombs.
Recentelijk heeft ...And Oceans hun vierde single van dit album bekend gemaakt, Within Fire and Crystal. Los van het feit dat het een kick-ass-nummer is, waarbij het samenspel van razendsnelle drums en dito riffs een perfecte basis vormen voor de agressieve en door merg en been snijdende stem van Mathias Lillmåns, is de video bij het nummer het bekijken meer dan waard. "The track and accompanying video represent an out of the body experience that has been around for millennia, too otherworldly to be told until now."
It’s rare for a band to commandingly return with their best effort to date, but Finland’s ...And Oceans are here to prove that 2020’s Cosmic World Mother was the sound of creative floodgates bursting through into a new body of water, an ocean if you will. Well, that was their pinnacle up until their new album, As In Gardens, So In Tombs, is let out into the world. Everything that ...And Oceans’ first full-length in 18 years did well – blistering symphonic black metal, heady themes that dealt with the connection between philosophy and psychics, and ...And Oceans’ trademark adventurous songwriting - As In Gardens, So In Tombs manages to eclipse and recontextualize. It’s the sound of a band seizing every ounce of momentum and upping the ante in every way. While ...And Oceans has never written the same album twice, in many ways, their latest sounds like an opportunity for the Finnish group to pick up and improve upon what they started. Symphonic black metal is never this fun, free, and fantastic.
Lead single “Cloud Heads” is a great introduction into the magic and serves as a statement of intent. Swirling melodies, blastbeats that sound like the rumbles after The Big Bang, and ethereal symphonic touches result in a song that’s equally fierce and pleasant to take in. A kinder, gentler (but not gentle) version of ...And Oceans.
“’Cloud Heads’ is certainly one of my favorites!” vocalist Mathias Lillmåns shares. “It was sort of an icebreaker song. It was one of the first songs we wrote straight after Cosmic World Mother was finished, and the first lyrics I wrote for the album. It was the song that paved way (or broke the ice) for the rest of the album.”
Part of the reason the band even needed to “break the ice” with this record is the pace at which their last was written, as guitarist Timo Kontio acknowledges:
“Well for me starting to do Cosmic World Mother was more nerve wrecking and even in doubt whether we should make new music or not. In the end it was quite an easy project to do, to our relief. So when we started to make this album, it was more relaxed and more or less go with the flow mentality. We had the first ‘difficult comeback album’ done, and everything came quite easily! It was really refreshing to make this kind of music after so long.”
“I was only supposed to produce guitars for Cosmic World Mother,” Lillmåns adds, “but a month before the recordings were supposed to start, my phone suddenly rang. I could sense that this phone call was going to be important when I saw it was Timo calling. I was asked to join the band and also to write lyrics for the whole thing. Immediately when I saw the first version of the [album] cover, I got this vision of what the concept of the album would be, and I wrote most of the album in sort of a frenzy with the next few weeks.”
“It’s strange with the new album,” he continues, “because I have always been forced to use tight deadlines for myself when writing music or lyrics. It seems I need the pressure to create something I’m happy with. Also, for some reason I get most done when traveling, I used to take trains to nowhere just write sometimes back in the day! This time there were no pressure, no traveling, and I was not on the edge of a burn out, and it went smoother than ever before! The lyrics just kept on coming, not as fast and not in such a trancelike frenzy as the last album, but good stuff on a steady basis.”
So while Cosmic World Mother was the sort of ravishing fever dream of an album that poured out of ...And Oceans in fits and starts, As In Gardens, So In Tombs was the result of the band taking the time to sweat the small stuff. The result can be found everywhere – melodies are brighter, the orchestral elements feel more essential, and Lillmåns’ vocals have swallowed a mushroom (in a garden or tomb?) as done a Mario-like levelling up. Even in the way the album sounds, As In Gardens, So In Tombs sounds warmer, the kind of record meant to be played while walking alone in nature. That sense of measured purpose was very intentional as Lillmåns notes:
“[The record] definitely feels grander and more melodic. I think stepping up the production also was something that helped in this sense! Having Juho Räihä at SoundSpiral Audio taking a bigger role in the recording and having it sent over to Tore Stjerna at NBS Production definitely made it sound more massive and took a load off our shoulders to focus on the music itself!”
Who could’ve guessed that leaving the musicians to focus on the music would have good results?
As noted earlier, musically and thematically, everything about Cosmic World Mother was rapidly birthed from its creators. The themes of that record weighed heavily on the band and carried over into this record. Cosmic World Mother was about how energy is eternal and how only changes form. This record doubles down on that notion by focusing on how humanity's energies toward enlightenment are often the same path, even if we have different languages, religions, customs, etc. I have this vision of us all playing different levels of a video game but ending up at the same ending. Energy is the most efficient recycler in the universe. So where and how did Lillmåns find inspiration to write the lyrics for this album? Did he end up walking gardens and pacing graveyards?
“I went back to gardens, moved away from the city into the nature. I always felt like I needed to be in a dark place to create lyrics that came from the heart, ‘when the body suffers, the mind flowers,’ kind of state. This time I was at ease, and it was surprisingly efficient. I usually don’t want to spoil too much and having people to think for themselves, but yes, I had the time to sit down and read during the pandemic and came to some conclusions (as in nature, so in books). I think it’s a very calming thought, that whatever happens, whenever it happens, makes no difference. We have always and always will be a part of the circle of eternal energy; we have always existed and will always exist in some form. A notion that became ever so clear when reading up on different religions, worldviews, customs, and philosophies.”