Oceans Ate Alaska’s new album Hikari (Eng: Light) is an adventure of musicianship, creativity and incredible songwriting. The album follows a Japanese theme pulling influence from Samurai Mythology using traditional Japanese instruments throughout the album. The album is quite literally a story, the band wrote it from start to finish with the intention of the audience listening to it from start to finish.
Benzatien opens the album with some traditional Japanese music and teases the incoming drop theirs fans have grown to anticipate, with some heavy instrumention in the background under the Japanese music – it’s a tense build up before the album properly kicks off and makes you wanna throw down in the pit for half an hour. The song, as does the album, really shows off Jake Noakes’ incredible vocal range. He recently filled the position of vocalist after James Harrison left the band, and his high and low screams should quite frankly be the standard for modern metal bands, and he also has some great clean vocals for a man who can scream like that – the band have stayed away from the typical, over-processed clean vocals that have become typical of core bands.
Guitar duties fall to James Kennedy and Adam Zytkiewicz who clearly know how to play their instruments. The guitars throughout the album are nothing but complex and appropriate. The breakdowns are brutal and not your standard one note chug but interesting layered to make them much more impactful and intriguing. Deadweight and Sarin both show how talented and inventive the guitarists are with some slick riffs and solos.
The complexity and precision that drummer Christ Turner plays the drums with on this album is phenomenal. From relaxed jazz beats to blast beats he brings together bassist Mike Stanton, who has a mean thumb and great bass tone, and James and Adam with such flair. He makes the entire thing glue together.
The band as a whole are not afraid to experiment with the sound of the band and break down this pre-conceived idea that all modern metal must follow a certain regime. The band throw in jazz aspects, and tracks like Veridical and Ukiyo are more evidence the band don’t and won’t blend into the generic. It is kind of a bit difficult to blend into the back ground when you play complex polyrhythms like they’re basic 4 chords and make it flow as if they were playing basic 4 chords. The arrangement of the each track is flawlessly planned and flows into one another with ease without being jarring when it goes from complex djent-esque to traditional Japanese.
Oceans Ate Alaska should be what every band strives to be. Creative, great, innovative musicians and not afraid to push boundaries. Diving into concept album about samurai mythology on your second album is no small feat, but it’s one the Birmingham lads have pulled off. Their last album Lost Isles made them a “band to watch” according to Rock Sound and Kerrang and this album just proves that they are. Do not sit on this album or band, you will regret it.
Note: The unsung heroes of this album are the engineers and producer, who I haven’t been able to find any information on. They have done an incredible job on this album and the production value is beyond your average sophomore album. They really helped bring everything together and make it sound as great as it does.