Oceans of Slumber – New album “The Banished Heart” is a step forward in the band´s discography and profile
Formed in 2011 in Houston as a doom metal type of band, Oceans of Slumber radically changed their approach when vocalist Cammie Gilbert joined them. 2016 saw the band releasing “Winter”, one of the most surprising albums of this decade. They are now back with a new effort, “The Banished Heart”.
The album kicks off with “The Decay of Disregard”, with a haunting piano melody, and soon explodes on heavy riffing and blast beats, as the listener is slowly captured by Cammie´s smooth and strong voice. Most songs clock in above the six minute mark and include growling vocals from both guitar players, and while it is a challenging effort to take in one hit, the dedicated listener will find this a rewarding experience at the end. The delicate piano interludes provide breathing space between the heavy riffing and slow doom passages. Other stand out tracks here are “No Color, No Light”, which features Evergrey´s Tom S. Englund, “Etiolene” with a catchy chorus, and a beautiful cover of “Wayfaring Stranger”.
In the band´s own words, “The Banished Heart” was born amid troubled times. Drummer Dobber Beverly went through a divorce, and Cammie reached out to him. Out of the ashes and through the sharing of painful experiences, the album was born. The sound of a blossoming creative force rising from pain’s pitch-black fog to blaze and rage in hopeful, starlit skies.
Lotsofmuzik´s Rodrigo Altaf contacted Dobber, and he replied to our questions on the new album via email:
Lotsofmuzik – Seven years ago, Oceans of Slumber started up. Tell us a little bit about the history of the band, and how everything you guys have been through led us to the new album “The Banished Heart”. I understand the album was born out of very personal struggles for Cammie and Dobber.
Dobber Beverly -Sean [Gary, guitars and vocals] and I have been close friends for a while, long before the band started. My old death metal band, Infernal Dominion, had a rehearsal space in downtown Houston next door to Sean’s old band. So we would hang out and swap band stories and record talk. Normal musician stuff. Fast forward a few years and we were all sharing a rehearsal room with separate band. His band broke up and my band at the time had dissolved shortly after. We decided to give starting a new band a shot.
Originally shooting for a dark metal type of thing (Charon/Sentenced/Type O Negative, etc.) we kind of jumped the gun and went for Cynic meets atmosphere and doom. Thus the first record, Aetherial. Kind of a melting pot of ideas and no real direction. Fun but not concise or serious enough for me. Winter followed suit as an EP, originally only being Sunlight, Turpentine, and Suffer the Last Bridge. After the initial tracking of it Sean and I both had the idea of finishing it out as a record. Our original vocalist had his falling from grace and I asked Cammie to join as we finished the record. Complicated, somewhat. To hold us over during the tracking of Winter we constructed the “Blue EP”, and to have a release for the band in the meantime while we shopped the record around. With all of that said, up until now the band hasn’t fully focused on a record like we have with The Banished Heart.
When we were approached about a new record I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and why. The “why” is what drove every aspect of this album. I was going through a very hard separation from a lifelong relationship. My daughter was born 4 years ago and it exposed the cracks of what life as I knew truly was. That things had changed so much for me and between me and my ex. As heartbreaking as it was I needed change. To know something different or that things could be different. Cammie had a similar relationship and familiar pitfalls. As most of us do or have in our lives. She had given a lot of herself to someone with little to no return. Running the well dry as you would have it. The guys were into it. They understood for the most part and they backed us. Being in a band that writes dark music is a breeding ground for this kind of stuff and they’ve all experienced it in some degree.
Thus the conception of The Banished Heart. The withering exile of the heart and its triumphant return to form.
Lotsofmuzik – The cover of the new album is quite different from the other albums in your discography. Tell us a bit about the process to create that cover.
DB - I wanted to return to the classic look and feel of photography as an art medium. Creating the scene and capturing it. Cammie and I discussed the album cover as a representation of the band and our vision and we found the perfect artist photographer to capture the essence of it: Kavan the Kid. It has all of the great elements of metal. Dark atmosphere, beautiful subject, blood, and purpose.
Lotsofmuzik – It´s your third album, aside from one EP. Would you say the composition process was similar to your previous efforts, or did you use the same approach?
DB - We write very fast as a unit, so it was similar to the rest of the records. I sort through some material the guys write and then we construct songs based off of that. Sometimes Anthony [Contreras, guitars and vocals], Sean, or myself will bring full songs in and then we adjust from there. There will be a general direction or idea for the album as a whole. The things that add character. Things that link them. Everything is purposely laid out in a particular order and is determined from the beginning of the writing process. The Banished Heart was the center piece that we wrote the rest of the record around this time.
Lotsofmuzik – Your previous effort Winter represented quite a leap in your profile. What is your expectation with “The Banished Heart”?
DB - If Winter was a leap then we hope “…Banished...” propels us into the outer stratosphere. We feel very strongly and confident about this record and it is as honest of a representation of us at this moment as we could ever give. Love and loss and the plague that ensues.
Lotsofmuzik – The new single and video, “The Decay Of Disregard” is out now, and it kicks off the album in a powerful way – tells a bit about the choice of that song to be the first one on the album and the first single.
DB - It’s quite simple. It’s the first song and what better way to introduce or re-introduce ourselves than with our first foot forward? “The Decay of Disregard” is a good representation of everything within the confines of these walls I would say.
Lotsofmuzik – One of the songs in the new album, “No Color, No Light”, shows an incredible duet between Cammie and Evergrey´s Tom S. Englund. How did you guys reach out to him to collaborate on that track?
DB - Tom has been a good friend of mine and the band for a while. Hell of a guy and an otherworldly soul when it comes to music and performing. We had finished the track and had intentions of him singing on the record from the beginning. It was the perfect song for him of ours. The calling siren, the serenity of the woods, the longing…one of my favorite tracks I’ve ever been a part of.
Lotsofmuzik - The album closes with a modern take on a gospel song, “Wayfaring Stranger”, which was covered by Johnny Cash, Eddie Sheeran and Jack White, among others. Whose idea was it to cover this song, and congratulations on the end result by the way!
DB - Growing up in the south I had known this song my whole life. A particular version by a man named Eric Bibb is what inspired me to take the last steps of approach from my point of view musically. The point of view of the traveller and the return home. Though I am not a religious person, I get the woeful entry from a long absence feel of this song. Walking through the door where no one remembers or no one expects you there but you long to be there or see someone. Someone who has died, someone who is dead to you, or someone you’ll never see again due to whatever circumstances. It’s a tragically hopeful song where death seems to be the grand unifier. Mix all of that with Cammie’s southern soulful voice and it takes me somewhere else.
Lotsofmuzik - Cammie wasn´t the singer in the first album – what drove the band to consider this change from a male vocalist to a female, and how did Cammie adapt her style to sing his material live?
DB - Our original vocalist, Ronnie Gates, had a life of turmoil. He definitely came by his talent and curse honestly. And he was able to channel it creatively very well. Excellent musician. But it got the best of him and he had to part ways to work on life and himself. When Cammie had came in it was easy because their ranges weren’t too far off from each other. Though she couldn’t do the death/black/screaming stuff, she more than covered his clean parts. Giving everything an extra kick or two up for us. Though it was a huge change for us and a very surreptitious move in the beginning, it ultimately put us exactly where I had hoped from day one with the band. A diverse musical backdrop led by a strong female vocalist.
Lotsofmuzik – One thing that´s almost unanimous when I read about the band is “light and shade”. You guys seem to have found a perfect balance between heavy riffing and blast beats and beautiful piano interludes. How do you find that balance?
DB - The structure is oddly simple and funny. Most of us grew up in the 90’s and listened to the same old bands. Type O Negative always had a contrast and did a cover song. Pantera always had two clean/heavy songs on their records. I come from the same school and love the diversity and routine of it. Morbid Angel had interludes and keyboards. Simple creatures we are.
Lotsofmuzik – What are the plans for 2018? Any hints into the upcoming tour? I noticed you have a tour booked with Epica in April, but what else is in the cards, and what can fans expect of the new show?
DB - We’re working on a few things at the moment. Trying to make tours happen is very expensive and the music industry doesn’t really reward bands that well, so we’re fighting that uphill battle every day. Plans for a full US tour this year and a few unplugged/chamber music shows as well. We will just have to see how things pan out. As for the shows, expect a great performance and a hearts on our sleeve live representation of ourselves. Emotive, powerful, and intense…if everything goes to plan.
Oceans of Slumber´s “The Banished Heart” comes out on March 02nd 2018 via Century Media Records. The videos from three tracks off the new album can be seen below:
Artwork and the tracklist of “The Banished Heart”:
01. The Decay Of Disregard (08:59)
02. Fleeting Vigilance (05:25)
03. At Dawn (08:30)
04. The Banished Heart (09:05)
05. The Watcher (2:25)
06. Etiolation (06:01)
07. A Path To Broken Stars (06:31)
08. Howl Of The Rougarou (05:02)
09. Her In The Distance (02:03)
10. No Color, No Light (07:17)
11. Wayfaring Stranger (3:41)
Cammie Gilbert – Vocals
Anthony Contreras – Guitar
Sean Gary – Guitar
Keegan Kelly – Bass
Uaeb Yelsaeb – Synthesizers
Dobber Beverly – Drums
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