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Ocean Chief is a relatively unknown Swedish sludge metal act, and this release was my first exposure to the band. I really did not know what to expect when the CD arrived, but I was met with extremely heavy and entrancing sludge that left me in a stupor. The intense long compositions and epic, powerful riffs make the music delivered in these four tracks a treat to hear, and these guys provide an unusual spike in the standard thick stew of sludge and stoner metal.
I love the composition style brought forth on this album, with the riff-centered guitars leading the charge, and providing the meat of each track. While listening to this album, I often found myself dozing off or spacing out, not due to boredom, but due to the hypnotic and repetitive nature of the guitar riffs, which would bore me in other albums, but works very well here. Distortion is present, but the guitars are cleaner than most sludge work, actually creating an atmosphere and legibility between each riff, rather than a giant wall of distortion, and that makes this album a real treat to hear. The atmosphere on this album is as powerful as the ocean, and those are the images that come to mind when listening to Sten (this is perhaps due to the absolutely gorgeous artwork). The bass buffers the guitars with a deep warm tone, and works well in conjunction with the guitar. The drums sound very good on this record, with a powerful kick sound and a solid performance overall. The drums drag the sludgy guitars along well, and keep the record going. With that said, the songs begin to wear thin after a while. I feel like Ocean Chief doesn't quite have the chops to pull off songs of these lengths. The second track definitely overstayed its welcome, and I began to check the time every so often as the 19-minute beast droned on. I also feel that the repetition drags the album down. This is not the case, however, on the final track, Oden. Odd synthesizer and keyboard effects carry this epic track home, and the album ends on a triumphant, entrancing note. The hypnotizing feel of this awesome song makes it a great finisher, and easily the best song on the album.
The girth of these tracks brings down the record, which could have been trimmed down from it's 70-minute running time. But the bizarre, otherworldly feel of this album is a nice change from the massive distorted hunks of music that are modern sludge and doom records, which can wear thin after a while. I would recommend this album to any fans of doom, sludge or stoner who are looking for something that breaks tradition.