Doom metal has always been the domain of powerful vocalists, from the operatic cries of Messiah Marcolin and the versatile range of Mike Scheidt to the bewitching howls of Dorthia Cottrell and the original wails of Ozzy Osbourne. Even amongst such esteemed company, the triumphant cries of Cammie Gilbert put the singer in a league of her own. After joining Houston’s Oceans Of Slumber in 2014, Gilbert quickly became the six-piece’s centrepiece, with the band behind her crafting epic metallic masterpieces that give her a stable, monolithic platform.
On the band’s self-titled fourth LP, Gilbert sounds more unstoppable than ever. Not only do the highs feel more herculean in scope, but the vulnerable croons during the record’s subdued, mournful moments have intensified in expression, injecting tear-jerking emotion on ‘To The Sea’ and ‘I Mourn These Yellow Leaves’. It’s not a surprise that with Gilbert at her best, the band have crafted their most unique and creative album to date, stacked with what are undoubtedly the finest songs the Texans have gifted us thus far.
Gilbert’s vocals lead the charge, but they’re especially effective when stacked up alongside bellowing growls, and the work that’s gone into making Oceans Of Slumber’s music more epic than ever cannot go unnoticed. Whilst ever-shrouded in a doom and gloom that seems uniquely apposite right now, the group have also taken adventurous steps on this album. The dramatic back-and-forth of death metal-imbued centrepiece ‘The Adorned Fathomless Creation’, the blues-meets-synths balladry of ‘To The Sea’ and the dazzling interlude ‘September (Those Who Come Before)’ are exemplative of a record that manages to surprise at almost every turn without losing what made the band so effective in the first place.
Even when the band are operating in more predictable realms, though, as on lead-single ‘A Return To The Earth Below’, the melodically-inclined glacial doom seen on previous albums is more potent than ever. From start to finish, the record is an absolute masterclass in dynamic songwriting – even the closing Type O Negative cover ‘Wolf Moon (Including Zoanthropic Paranoia)’ doesn’t seem out of place despite showing yet more progression from the sextet. There is an overwhelming abundance of truly jaw-dropping moments to be encountered here, and repeated listens only enhance your enjoyment and understanding of this vast, theatrical epic.
It’s hard not to mention the pandemic or the fight against racial injustice that have affected so many lives in recent months during almost every album review right now – no record is released in a vacuum and the current situation seems so universal as to be almost inescapable. Oceans Of Slumber likely had no idea when writing these songs that the album would be released under such conditions, and yet the record seems perfectly poised to offer a timely reminder that whilst art alone isn’t going to change the world, it can inspire us, enrich our lives or simply offer a light in dark times.
Oceans of Slumber is out via Century Media Records on 4th September. Order here: https://oceansofslumber.lnk.to/OceansOfSlumber
Words: George Parr