The Ocean - Heliocentric (Metal Blade/Riot)

The Ocean are back and this time they're tackling the rather weighty subject of Heliocentric belief. Don't know what that is? Give The Ocean an hour of life... Go on, it's worth it!

What I love about The Ocean is their use of the full range of instruments available to them. As a trained Saxophonist and Clarinettist it's a pure pleasure for me to hear a band use instruments not normally associated with metal and/or rock of any kind, making heavy metal orchestral movements a reality. The Ocean have done for the rest of the instruments out there what Apocalyptica did for Cellos (which by the way I used to play as well... badly, I hasten to add!). The other thing I love about The Ocean is that they like to tell a story with their records, making each song part of the story and Heliocentric truly holds this story-telling throughout. It is clear and fresh and a pleasure to listen to.

Heliocentric theory says that the earth revolves around the sun, whilst the sun is stationary and at the centre of the universe. The album is based on the effects that the discovery of this theory had on astronomy, religion and philosophy. This album truly captured my imagination as someone brought up surrounded by religious beliefs yet finding more logic in scientific theories. This really is a massive subject to be tackled in one album, yet The Ocean manage it with artistic integrity intact.

The short intro Shamayim is representative of the nothing before creation. In the bible, Shamayim is considered to be the heavens, and the intense use of long notes to demonstrate this brings chills. A gentle guitar sound picks through the notes and the second song Firmament starts. With lyrics describing the creation as written in the bible, the music builds to a crashing crescendo, giving a real sense of creation. The alternative view is also tackled in The First Commandment Of The Luminaries, which looks at the ancient view that the earth had openings which the sun and moon would enter and leave the earth through. Believers of this theory (Enoch) believed the sun to be access to heaven (aka Firmament); again, the music really reflects this, with ethereal-sounding vocals, and a piano break to give the sense of movement in and out of the earth.

Ptolemy Was Wrong tells the story of Copernicus and Galileo, who first came up with the theory of heliocentrism, giving way for scientific theories which would detach from the popular biblical beliefs. This song is a beautiful piano and string based piece with questioning vocals. In contrast, Metaphysics Of The Hangman touches on the (Twilight of the Idols) theory that rules in Christianity were unrealistic and against human nature. The lyrics to this song really touch on the subject so well with the repeated line 'where do your values come from'. This leads perfectly into Catharsis Of A Heretic which tells the story of Giordano Bruno, who refused to accept Catholic doctrine, instead pursuing the heliocentric view of the world that saw him burned at the stake in 1600 after the Roman inquisition found him guilty of heresy. This is an insightful and moving song which truly captures the mood of Bruno's story.

Swallowed By The Earth is the song that introduces us into more modern thinking: it brings us to the theory that if you aren't happy with what you've got, are you going to do something about it? Believers in heliocentric thought stood fast and with Darwin's theory of evolution (The Origin Of The Species) a truly new way of thinking was born. It continues with the likes of evolution biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins's ideas (The Origin Of God, Epiphany).

Whilst full of lots of deep and meaningful theory behind the songs, they are still a pleasure to listen to. I hadn't read any of the promo material or taken time to fully understand what The Ocean were attempting with this album on my first listen, which was enjoyable as some of the songs are pure genius Firmament and The Origin Of The Species truly stand out. However, on really looking at what was intended with this album, I found myself dusting off my bible to remind myself about the theories behind heaven and earth, and trawling Google to understand more about heliocentric thought. And this is something else I love about this band: their ability to produce an album which is not only a pleasure to the ears but inspires learning, discussion and thought from a variety of points of view. 

Quite frankly The Ocean have produced another album of pure genius. This is the modern-day equivalent to compositions such as The Planets by Gustav Holst.

Heliocentric is out now on Metal Blade/Riot.