BY NICOLAS GRIZZLE
If you’re a fan of metal, prog, or just amazing drumming in general, you should take a deep dive into The Ocean. Fans of this German progressive metal group will be excited to hear that the first half of an epic two-part album, Phanerozoic I: Palaezoic, will be released November 2. For now, check out this Drum! exclusive premiere video, featuring drummer Paul Seidel (who joined the group in 2013) describing his recording debut with the band.
After five years of touring on 2013’s Pelagial, the band started recording its eighth studio album this February. It will be split into two volumes to be separately released in 2018 and 2020 respectively, titled Phanerozoic. The process of laying down tracks began in Iceland, with the drums being tracked at Sigur Ros’ own Sundlaugin Studios with long-time friend and producer Julien Fehlmann.
“The most prominent effect to me was this overall humbleness towards nature and the creative process, all due to being surrounded by these vast landscapes that Iceland is so famous for,” Seidel tells Drum. “The studio was located amidst a snowed-in mountain range, offering only coldness and abrasive irrelevance. It was the antipode to Berlin, a capital at times drowning in self-importance. Relocating ourselves allowed us to ease our minds and focus on what matters.”
The band workied out every detail for this record in the rehearsal room prior to heading into the studio, a change of pace from their previous releases.
“Since the new album is separated in two parts and thematically dealing with the development of life and it’s evolution as well as recurring extinction events, the main idea was to convey a musical transition from simplicity to complex patterns and matters,” says Seidel. “The first record is very raw and particularly focuses on heaviness… while the second part is supposed to portray diversity, which will also be reflected in different styles of music and things the band hasn’t done before.”
The first of the two-album set, he notes, was recorded with “100 percent acoustic drums, without any additional samples, sounds, or effects, in order to accompany the realness and rawness of the music. The second part, which is still being worked on at the moment, will also give more space to new ideas, new sounds and experiments, which we’re still exploring.”
For this recording, Seidel used a Tama Starclassic Performer Birch/Bubinga drum set with a 22” bass drum, 14” snare, 12” mounted tom, and 14” and 16” floor toms. Cymbals were all Meinl Byzance: 16” Traditional hi-hat; 16” Vintage trash crash; 20” Traditional thin hammered crash; 22” Traditional medium crash; 22” Vintage Sand Ride; and 20” Equilibrium China. He used Evans G2 coated and calftone heads, as well as an EQ2 on the bass drum.
The Ocean is known for conceptual albums inspired by earth science, with titles and corresponding themes including Precambrian, Helioocentric and Anthropocentric. Phanerozoic (which, as we all learned in science class, is the era that succeeded the Precambrian supereon) is inspired by the 500-million-year period leading to present day that has seen the evolution and diversification of plant and animal life on Earth, as well as the partial destruction of it during five mass extinction events. Conceptually and musically, The Ocean’s Phanerozoic is the missing link between the 2007’s Precambrian and the two 2010 albums Heliocentric (having or representing the sun as the center of the solar system) and Anthropocentric (regarding humankind as the central or most important element of existence).
Guitarist and primary songwriter Robin Staps wrote Phanerozoic in seclusion in a house by the ocean. The first volume of the double album is made up of bleak and heavy songs boiled down to the essential core of the musical ideas driving them. The band’s former lighting designer Peter Voigtmann joins the band on synthesizers for this album, which also sees bassist Mattias Hägerstrand making his recording debut with the group.
Since 2001, the Berlin-based musician collective The Ocean has released seven critically acclaimed studio albums and a split EP with Japanese post-rock legends Mono. With an ever-changing lineup of musicians and visual artists, both on and off stage, the relentlessly touring group has become known for its immense, mind-expanding live shows. The band’s own Pelagic Records has also become one of Europe’s leading labels for post-rock and post-metal, with a catalog of 120 releases since 2009.
Check out the first single from Phanerozoic I, “Permian: The Great Dying,” which references an event when 95 percent of all life on Earth was wiped out. Heavy stuff.