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Of all Finnish metal bands ... and Oceans must have been the most atypical. Though their roots lie with Stormblast-era Dimmu Borgir, this band quickly deviated from standard Black Metal, with the use of industrial or electronical samples in their music, not unlike Samael but not like them either. At last, they escaped from the cage that was ...and Oceans, and started anew as Havoc Unit. This review discusses ...and Oceans' last offering, Cypher.
Cypher is, clear to anyone's hearing, an album from a band that doesn't like to sit safe with their musical ideas. From the beginning it already sounds damn refreshing, with the immensely tight opener Fragile. ...and Oceans crafts compact Black Metal on this offering, with raw yet calculated guitar-centred work and thriving rhythms. The production works to their advantage, with a digital sounding, but not flat buzz for the guitars, and plenty of room left for a punchy double bass.
This album differs from its excellent predecessor AM GOD in many ways, though the core aesthetics of the music remain the same. Songs have become a tad more compact, lessening the Black Metal influences of lengthy nuancing to place more emphasis on the dynamics of the industrial feel. The keyboards are also abundant here, mostly techno-electronics meshing with the guitar work without eclipsing it, though sometimes adding all-important texture to songs (Debris). It is here that the band fails on occasion - the keyboard patterns can become so divergent from the riffing as to make both elements less than the sum of their parts, regrettably even less than the sum of themselves. It is that ramps the excellence of the album down in several places, making it a mixed bag - a mixed bodybag of human and robotic limbs - which sets it a couple of tiers below AM GOD.
...and Oceans is a band which continued to experiment throughout its existence, and quite understandably this can go too far for some. Heck, even they had enough. Songs like Voyage are but an electric guitar away from being labelled as Darkwave. However, one must understand that bands like these are necessary, for they display the vitality of metal, a raging quixotic beast perpetually rejuvenating itself through eclectic means. Cypher is thusly a recommendation for the open-minded extreme metal fan.
Favourite Cuts: Halcyon, Aphelion, Aphid, Voyage.