01. The City In the Sea
02. Dead Serious and Highly Professional
04. Killing the Flies
05. Une Saison en Enfer
07. One With the Ocean
09. Queen of the Food Chain
Without knowing any backstory on this German collective, "Aeolian" would (perhaps more accurately) be seen as just a decent, somewhat redundant heavy album with a lot of long songs and huge riffs. But THE OCEAN are actually a loose group of musicians who live and work in the catacombs of an abandoned aluminum factory in Berlin, incorporate visual artists as full-time members of the group, and are known on other releases to work drum-and-bass, trip-hop, and orchestral elements into their sound.
"Aeolian" is actually half of a mammoth session the collective recorded over eighteen months, and it's the heavier, more aggressive chunk (the rest was released in 2004 as "Fluxion"). Those esoteric elements mentioned above barely get a hearing here – this is pummeling, snarling, angry metal with a technical bent, lurching through CONVERGE-like squalls of ugliness, interspersed with slower and more monolithic sections.
In keeping with the remembership philosophy, no less than six guest vocalists, screamers all, show up on "Aeolian". Tomas Hallbom (BREACH),Sean Ingram (COALESCE) and Nate Newton (CONVERGE, OLD MAN GLOOM) add a little bit of star power, and provide hours of guess-the-singer fun (the band even promises a free t-shirt in the liner notes to anyone who can chart the whole album, vocally).
But while none of the vocalists really distinguish themselves, the music on "Aeolian" seems designed to stick out, to perplex and to mystify. Comparisons to NEUROSIS, ISIS, MASTODON and MESHUGGAH have all been heard in relation to "Aeolian", and at various intervals they could all be seen as accurate. There are massive, monolithic slow parts, convoluted technical riffery, balls-out aggressive hardcore, squalling moody midtempo bits… it's quite a bit to digest, particularly given the fact that these are some long, sprawling songs. "Aeolian" is a bit of a grower, though, and those patient enough to give multiple listens (preferably in headphones) will find the album more rewarding with each trip through its unpredictable terrain.
The whole thing does end up getting a bit fatiguing by the end, even after it sinks in a bit. One wonders if the band maybe took out a little too much of its other, odder influences, attempting to make a record that tries (and mostly succeeds) in being avant-garde within more strict metal confines. I think if THE OCEAN had gone a little further with that self-editing and cut down some of these 7-9 minute horsepills, or just gone cackling off the deep end and made things even more bizarre and weird, "Aeolian" would be a classic. As it is, it's still a good album, strange and weird, but ultimately, first and foremost, viscerally heavy. Well worth the time for fans of any of the above mentioned groups.