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Label: Pelagic Records / Release date: 19th May 2023
Holocene is the final part of the three-part saga from one of most interesting progressive post metal acts of past decade or so. The Ocean Collective’s massive concept of telling the story of planet earth in form of three concept albums started off five years ago with the release of Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic, which was followed up by Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic, which came out in 2020 just as pandemic was raging on. It was also at that period that the band started work on the third and final part of the colossal concept. Holocene focuses on the latest and shortest epoch on the geological time scale, the one in which the humans appeared. As such conceptually it comes across somewhat more direct and easier to relate.
The album opens where the last song on Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic entitled appropriately “Holocene” left off, meaning that the opener “Preboreal” is a synth driven with focus on texture and build-up towards the last minute in which the band collectively erupts in all their glory.
So as that last track off of Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic indicated, electronics play a big part on this album, which makes the album more than just a logical continuation of its two predecessors. The approach also seems rather fitting of the time period which it portrays and where the tentative conclusion of the story takes place. Usually, the band would write their songs around starting idea of drum pattern, guitar riff or a melody, but this time around each of the songs’ starting points was a synth section. Now, that doesn’t mean that this is electronic album in any way. This is as much The Ocean Collective as anything, with good portion massive riffs, dazzling rhythms, and the vast diversity in vocal performances. But what synth elements synth elements create is the overall fundament and the driving direction in which the album develops compared to its two predecessors. It also further enforces the overall cinematic qualities, which are characteristic of the entire trilogy, but truly takes the lead on this final part.
Within the more cinematic feel of the album there is just as much space for diversity as ever. Musically it’s another masterclass in performance, but even more so when it comes arrangements and the overall understanding of drive of the songs, their vitality and maintaining the emotional charge.Much like the case was before the Holocene features a vocal guest appearance, but unlike on last couple of records where it was Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse who delivered truly stunning performance, this time around band’ has turned to Karin Park. Her performance on “Unconformities” is just as stunning as Renkse’s and featuring female vocalist is a clever trick, because it gives the music more of different feel, which is rather suiting to the overall atmosphere of this album. Her preference is a big part of this song being one of the highlights of the album.
With Holocene, The Ocean Collective has created a worthy finale for the trilogy which suits and concludes the entire three-piece-concept, but with its additionally cinematic approach it truly suits as perfect round-up. With this career defining piece of work which stretched for five years and has proven a critical and commercial success, the band is undoubtedly at the top of their career. What remains unknown is how do they follow up this trilogy and in which direction will they move. because it’s rather unlikely that they’ll just continue down the same path. Holocene indicates just that.