As one of Berlin’s heaviest rocks bands, The Ocean have achieved things other bands could only dream of.
Internationally renowned, with a catalog swimming in epic, conceptual releases, the band have few peers that can even claim to have achieved anything similar. Now after two decades of creating gut-wrenching, mountain-moving, guitar-noise the band are back with a new record – the latest in their series of epoch-themed rock records, Holocene.
Exberliner caught up with the band to find out what keep them together, and how the world is constantly informed their globally-influenced music.
We wanted this album to have a huge and fat yet organic and more intimate sound, creating a lot of contradictions
You’ve been around for 20 years. What’s the secret to your endurance?
A driven, restless heart that beats in all of us. Being appreciative of what this band offers us: touring, travelling, playing intense shows in remote corners of the globe. Getting to see and experience places and people we would otherwise never have a chance to visit or to meet.
Also, embracing the fact that we are all very different individuals, and learning to take a step back and shut up in the face of (constant and unavoidable) conflicts, rather than baring your teeth each and every time.
What changes did you make as a band for the production of your new record?
Writing wise, this album is different from previous albums in that most of the tracks are based on musical ideas initially written by our synth player Peter. He sent me those ideas during mid lockdown and I Oceanized them by adding guitars, drums and new parts. So for the first time ever it’s not been me starting a song with a blank page, but working with basic ideas that someone else had written, and that was really inspiring and different.
Production wise, we wanted this album to have a huge and fat yet organic and more intimate sound, with a big and roomy natural drum sound, creating a lot of contradictions that were difficult to reconcile. We reached out to a handful of good people we knew for test mixes, some rather big names among them, but nothing was getting close enough to how we wanted this album to sound. So we finally ended up with an old friend and ally, Karl Daniel Lidén for mix and mastering. He understood what we wanted and knew how to get there.
Holocene is for sure the last album of the Palaeontology-inspired album series that we started
Are there any particular themes you wanted to tackle while writing the album?
Holocene, the album title, for us is synonymous for the modern and the postmodern age, so all the lyrics on this album deal with topics that flared up during the pandemic, when the album was written: the weirdness of that time, the social segregation even among close circles of friends that came with it. Each track has its own topic; Preboreal is Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, a book written long before the internet which seems almost prophetic now in the light of our current image-dominated Instagram and YouTube society, where mere representation is replacing actual content and critical thinking is lost along the way.
There will definitely be a Berlin date in October!
How would you say it compares to the rest of your catalogue?
It’s different in many ways, it’s more electronic and maybe a bit less heavy at a first glance, but it still has that Oceanic vibe to it. And it still is a heavy record, it’s just achieved by different means. The first really heavy guitar riff doesn’t appear until the second half of track 4, Atlantic, and while it’s possible to enjoy isolated tracks on their own, I think the album gains its real power if you listen through from the beginning to the end. There is a buildup of dynamics and intensity throughout the album that stretches beyond individual tracks.
What do you think stands out the most on this record compared to the others?
I guess the most notable things are primarily the synths and electronics which take a much more prominent role on this record, and also the brass – there are trombones, horns and trumpets in almost every track, and besides the band lineup (drums/bass/guitars) and an old vibraphone we didn’t use any other instruments on this album. I fell in love with the sound of the lower octave ranges of brass instruments and felt that there is a heaviness in that which compliments the vibe of the album perfectly; its darkness and bleakness.
Your music is written around epochs, so what will you do after the Anthropocene?
There’s a line in the lyrics of the last track Subatlantic, that goes “prepare for departure“… and this is what we’re doing. This album is a departure in many ways; a departure from old songwriting approaches, and a departure soundwise too. We don’t really know yet where this departure will take us, but Holocene is for sure the last album of the Palaeontology-inspired album series that we started with Precambrian in 2007 and continued with the Phanerozoic I and II albums in 2018 and 2020. It’s time for something new now.
And finally, when will we get to see you play again in Berlin?
We’re plotting our next moves for the fall, there will be a co-headline tour in Europe with an American band that we can’t announce yet, but there will definitely be a Berlin date in October!