Pegged as a black metal band, ...And Oceans have pushed the boundaries to new extremes on their Century Media debut, A.M.G.O.D. Not content to simply be one of the crowd in an overloaded scene, the band opted to enhance their music with elements that border on electronica when it came time to record the new album, a move that has been met with mixed reactions. But, as vocalist Killstar makes clear, symphonic orchestration has no place in ...And Oceans' world for one very simple reason.
"The black metal scene has stagnated and everyone knows it," says Killstar. "New symphonic metal bands are appearing every day and the labels are signing them like crazy, and these bands offer nothing new to the music. We used to be a typical black or death metal band some years ago, and we made the changes we did on purpose because we don't want to be like everyone else. Okay, the blastbeats and my vocals are typical for black metal, I guess, but there is a lot more to ...And Oceans, I'm proud to say, than those two things."
The band that became ...And Oceans, called Festerday, was founded in 1989. The band released its first album under the ...And Oceans moniker in 1996, evolving with each subsequent release. A.M.G.O.D. marks the band's major label debut. One wonders if the label superpower signed the band because they were part of a perceived trend - the black metal traits of the music cannot be ignored - or because they dared to be a little bit different.
"I like to think it was because they heard something special or different in the music," Killstar says. "I mean, it's a record label, and they'll tell you what you want to hear if it'll make them money. That's just the way the business works. The thing is, they signed us last year when we were throwing around the ideas for A.M.G.O.D. on demos and stuff, so something about what the people heard must have struck them as different enough to be interesting to a wider audience. We're definitely grateful for their support, though, because they're giving the band a huge push."
In some twisted way ...And Oceans reminds this writer of Hypocrisy or Strapping Young Lad. A fan of both bands, Killstar is noticeably pleased with the comparisons, although the SYL comparison comes as something of a surprise to him.
"I haven't heard that one before," he admits. "That's an incredible band; the City album...fuck! I don't know; maybe there are some similarities in that every time you listen to the album you hear more and more things going on in the music. That's the thing about Strapping Young Lad that I love; you don't catch everything the first time and there is always so much going on. If you want to compare us to a band like that, please do (laughs). We definitely tried to bring ...And Oceans to the next level, and from all the positive responses we've gotten we seem to have succeeded."
"There are some people that have compared us to bands like The Kovenant, though," Killstar continues, "which just proves they haven't really listened to the album. They hear the words 'electronic' or 'futuristic' and the first thing they think of is techno-metal, and we're nothing like that. The keyboards do make a difference between sounding like symphonic black metal or something different, and keyboards play a major part in the sound of bands like The Kovenant or Rammstein, but the keyboards aren't the dominant element in our music. Comparisons like that just piss us off."
A.M.G.O.D. - it stands for Allotropic/Metamorphic - Genesis Of Dimorphism, which takes too damn long to explain - was recorded at the infamous Abyss Studios and produced by Tommy Tagtgren, brother to Hypocrisy's Peter Tagtgren. Considering ...And Oceans wanted to create something other than a typical black metal album, wasn't it something of a risk working at the same studio and with a producer responsible for many of the black metal acts currently glutting the scene?
"We were a little concerned about that, yeah," Killstar admits. "I mean, if you look at Woodhouse Studios, they have a reputation for putting out albums that sound very similar to one another; same guitar tones, same drum sounds, everything. I think that's true of any studio or producer that gets used a lot, though; there will always be similarities in the sounds of bands produced by the same guy. But, Abyss is a great studio and Tommy is a great producer, so we took the chance. Tommy understood what we wanted to do and pretty much let us go, and I think that's the sign of a guy who really knows his job. The end result speaks for itself, and we're happy with it."