Oceans Ate Alaska
The tides they are a’ changin’. At least they certainly are for UK’s premiere nautically-named progressive metalcore band. Oceans Ate Alaska’s sophomore record is full of obvious and subtle shifts. Most notably, there’s a new vocal captain aboard the band’s ship, Jake Noakes. Also, and this is clear from the opening notes of Hikari, the band’s inspiration has washed up to different, non-Alaskan shores. Featuring a wealth of traditional Japanese instruments and lyrics that touch on Samurai culture and the infamous lotus flower, the band’s second album does a fantastic job of incorporating these unexpected influences to create a much smoother sound; it suits the optimistic lyrics wonderfully. Noakes’ vocals, coupled with a greater emphasis on texture and tone, result in a record that easily envelops the listener with its soothing mixture of technicality and ambiance. The band have blown past the high expectations after their debut to deliver this expertly crafted progressive metalcore record.
What’s most obvious about Hikari is how much it feels like an album. Instead of jarring inter-song transitions, many of these songs stay in one lane much longer. “Hansha” is the best song the band have ever crafted, and it highlights how boldly (and subtly) they integrated disparate elements together. Oceans Ate Alaska haven’t gone all The Contortionist on us just yet, but their focus on tone, texture, and feel over overt aggression and technicality has paid off in dividends here. Hikari is not easy listening, per se, but it is an incredibly easy record to keep spinning because of the band’s smart songwriting and understanding of how to keep songs interesting without needing to go off the prog or tech deep end at every chance. The choice to keep the lyrics positive helps the record stand out a bit more.
Optimistic, empowering, and mesmerizing, Ocean Ate Alaska’s bold sophomore album is a true progressive metalcore triumph.