Oceans Ate Alaska – Hikari

Ladies and djentleman, I present to you…Hikari—a viable candidate album of the year. No, I do not say that lightly. Oceans Ate Alaska perfect their highly feral yet incredibly polished progressive metalcore sound on Hikari. It is on this album that this band reaches its pinnacle in creativity, quality, and uniqueness.

Few bands can juggle heaviness and melody as well as Oceans Ate Alaska, and Hikari is a prime example of how to do it. On previous releases, the melodic moments seemed somewhat out of place in some moments. Yet Oceans Ate Alaska was able to coalesce the softer elements of their sound with their heavier ones with such smoothness (the perfect culmination of this heavy/soft blend being their track “Hansha”). This is a huge highlight of Hikari because OAA has a heavily jarring sound on the surface. I remember when I first listened to their previous album that I was constantly scratching my head, wondering how I was supposed to head bang to any of it (this is not a knock on the band; they are just really good with being technical). So I know from experience that this band can be hard to sonically digest. However, Oceans Ate Alaska crafted Hikari with such prowess and awareness that the album doesn’t play out as a tough listen. It’s polished and pristine, all while maintaining its blistering progressive sound.

A vital factor in this album being so phenomenal and polished is the new vocalist Jake Noakes. Like the previous vocalist, Noakes handles both the clean and unclean vocals; however, Noakes is essential for OAA’s polished sound. A talented vocalist overall, Noakes’ clean vocals are what allow the band to reach new heights. Noakes hits notes with a smooth deliciousness that was absent on previous releases. And to witness him balancing both clean and unclean vocals with apparent ease is admirable.

The Japanese theme imbues the album with positive results. The Japanese instrumentation serves not only as a testament to the band’s uniqueness but their willingness to experiment with different sounds. “Veridical” is the poster child for OAA’s implementation of Japanese instruments.

Apart from the additional Japanese instrumentation, Oceans Ate Alaska continued to bring the technical heaviness fans have come to expect. From frenetic riffs to dissonant chords and complex chugging, OAA creatively wanders the sonic spectrum, crafting memorable tracks each distinct from the next. “Benzaiten” is the first track on the album, and it introduces the Japanese vibe and the ridiculous technicality that diffuses throughout the entire album. The constant tempo changes are unbelievable (2:24 on “Benzaiten”, for example), but are not unique to just this track. Each song has phenomenal sections where time signatures and tempo shift in the most fluid way possible.

This album was literal perfection and will serve as legit evidence as to why Oceans Ate Alaska is one of the best bands currently in the scene. Hikari is a masterpiece that fluctuates along the sonic spectrum with technical grace and clear purpose, further cementing Oceans Ate Alaska’s signature sound.

10/10

Top vybes: “Hansha”, “Deadweight”, “Birth-Marked”, “Escapist”

For those who vybe to: Veil of Maya, Erra

Northlane – Mesmer

I had been sleeping on Northlane for most of their existence, and I am forever ashamed of that. It wasn’t until the progressive metalcore outfit released their single “Intuition” that I was hooked. They followed that song with a teaser, cryptic messages through Facebook Messenger, and ultimately another solid single called “Citizen”. However, on March 23rd they dropped their album Mesmer to the surprise of many. Yet I am more surprised at how good it is.

Mesmer is a polished adventure of an album that bears few weaknesses. It’s progressive in a milder sense, coupled with thought-inducing lyrics crooned by vocalist Marcus Bridge. The result is a cohesive album that shows depth and progression.

The album has eleven tracks. Melody is a fundamental aspect of Northlane, and so is the heavy-hitting djent that seeps through their music. Northlane perfectly blends the melody and progressive heaviness on Mesmer, delivering an album that doesn’t come off as too abrasive for new listeners or too soft for old ones. Melody serves as the foundation for tracks like “Solar” and “Heartmachine”, the former sounding a lot like something Of Mice & Men would create. On the other hand, Northlane’s brutality is not forgotten on tracks like “Intuition” and “Render”, which are two tracks where I find Northlane to be in their best form yet. These tracks hit hard, all while maintaining meaningful lyrics that require further probing. “Paragon” is fuego, commencing with its ambient moodiness and shifting into a heavy-hitter to close out an album that quite honestly is unforgettable. The only weakness I can spot is that Northlane’s album is back-loaded with a ton of amazing songs. The first five tracks excluding “Citizen” pale in comparison to the tremendously crafted songs from that point on.

Overall, Northlane dropped a perfect album that propels them into a more prominent position in the scene.

Top vybes: “Render”, “Intuition”, “Zero-One”

Vybes like: Erra, Volumes

Artists to Watch: Dwellings

With an impressive duo of tracks under their belt and a debut EP titled Lavender Town on the horizon, I have high hopes for this band, and you should too. The progressive post-hardcore outfit out of Modesto, California comes from the same vein as bands such as Dance Gavin Dance and Sianvar. In fact, they sound like Dance Gavin Dance during the years when they were fronted by Kurt Travis. Are they a exact replica that you ignore? Heck no! This band has their own unique feel. Their track “Lemonade” is thrilling with an extremely catchy hook and exceptional guitar work.

Their latest single “Foreverest” released in late November is much tamer, but super soothing. A Chon vibe is definitely present on this song. Both Josh Benton (ex-Dance Gavin Dance guitarist) and producer Kris Crummet have handled Dwellings’ production and mastering, respectively. Thus, you should keep your eyes open for their debut EP.

Vybes like: “Humble Ledger (Gnostic States)” – Eidola

For those who vybe to: Dance Gavin Dance, Hail The Sun

Check out their newest single”Foreverest” below.

Photo credit: @valleytaylor