Ocean
Here Where Nothing Grows
Important Records
2005
B+



with a genre as strictly defined as Doom Metal, it’s difficult for new acts to get their heads above water in such dangerously purist infested waters.



With Here Where Nothing Grows Ocean perform several balancing acts that make the album both a soon-to-be classic of its genre, a potential crossover, and an evolutionary step forward. Stuck in Portland, Maine (hardly a cultural haven from what I hear) and with the bitter Atlantic crowding the land, it’s easy to imagine the bleakness of the environment translating into sound. Three slabs of song, each around twenty minutes long, fill the void behind the superb sleek silver-on-black packaging that’s put together with all the care and attention that’d be paid to a release on, say, Hydra Head.

The songs are, with a few mid-paced riffing excursions along the way, deathly slow. Even so, they exist as actual ‘songs’ as opposed to lengthy Earth / Sunn O)) style “pieces.” Where other acts choose their genre path by strictly following paths overpopulated with OTT theatrics, clouds of weed smoke, drones, distortion, or Satanism, there’s an epic empty claustrophobic widescreen that permeates this record. They aren’t afraid to do any of the above in short doses, but their record isn’t defined by them.

Here Where Nothing Grows lacks the singular murky vision of much of its musical kin by creating a more mature sound which edges at times into the cinematic, emotive, and punchy feel of an Art-Rock act like Mogwai. There’s an actual sense of physical weight in the playing as the loosely stringed instruments struggle to lift themselves from the glum gluey mire. The sensation of a disintegrating Sabbath saturates “First Reign.” The brief bursts of increased velocity and the longer strains of doubled up higher guitar are brief respite being the song is dragged back to the lumbering bassy desolation. Like the footsteps of some prehistoric long-necked vegan or the shuddering last breaths of some extended movie death scene, the guitars lurch with a purpose that’s liable to push holes through earth and stone if left to haemorrhage through the amps at any higher volume.

“Salt” is a sturdier animal with a crawling Greg Ginn guitar line slipping into another piece of aching guitar punishment, which all builds to some kind of possible crescendo that never arrives. It very nearly edges into Led Zep territory at points but instead of “Salt” leaping from the lip of the peak in a frenzied spiral of soloing riffage, it sinks back into the storm clouds to stew in its own bridled violence. Featuring a lot more slithering, screaming crackling Burzum style vocals than the opener or closer it’s the most obvious and coherently “rock” of the three songs and comes in at just under the healthy twenty minute mark. The aforementioned closer “The Fall” shows they aren’t afraid to let things hang loose with a touch more of drifting feedback murmur and distortion around a killer piece of guitar and beautifully nasty counter melodies.

It might well be an hour long, but with only three tracks it doesn’t feel like anywhere near enough punishment.

Buy it at Forced Exposure!


Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2005-11-17
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