Over the years The Ocean Collective has grown from something that resembled a one-man project with revolving doors of band members into that which much more resembles a band, despite the fact that Robin Staps is still the main man and principal composer. With their previous release, Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic the band attained a whole next level of commercial success as well as wider critical acclaim. The truth is that The Ocean Collective has been creating great albums tackling grand topics for a long time, but truth be told Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic did see the band at their most ambitious, conceptually, and musically.
The first part of the two-part saga saw the band take over the task of telling the story of some 500 million years of our plant from an angle that is current and relatable. “We are just like reptiles, giant rulers of the world. Within the blink of an eye wiped off the face of the Earth'”.
As a second part of duology, it’s given that Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic, picks up where its predecessor left off.
The opener “Triassic” starts off with an appropriately slow-moving, yet heavy and extremely well executed intro that besides an eminent build-up at the same time staggers with its arrangements. After some tow-and-a-half minutes the colossal intro the song turns into a massive melodic riff-orgy of that as such serves as the perfect continuation of “Permian: The Great Dying”, which promptly closed the predecessor.
If the opener felt massive, then the follower “Jurassic | Cretaceous” is truly epic, not only because of its +13 minutes running time, but rather because of the songwriting and arrangements that are as massive as the giants that roamed the planet in the era it describes. Massive tightly bolted riffs and melodies are accompanied by brilliant electronics and horns, which underline the theme of the song without compromising the rawness or the earthy feel of it. Like on the predecessor, one song features a guest appearance from Jonas Renkse of Katatonia. His presence on “Jurassic | Cretaceous” is, however, not as direct and central as that on “Devonian: Nascent” from the previous album. His part is placed in the middle of the song, which sees the band slow down for a mellower section and Renkse’s vocals suit it very well, introducing new dynamics to the song, before it again explodes into a finale so heavy and intense that it’s hard see how the band will ever manage to follow it.
They do follow it with bombastic “Palaeocene”, which unfortunately fails to live up to the first two songs and while decent, it comes across as forgettable. “Eocene” is a gorgeous Tool-inspired tune that gives room to catch breath and it continues seamlessly into an instrumental that further emphasises the elegant atmosphere of the album with its stripped down, yet rather cinematic feel. It’s followed with another pair of highly energetic and rather catchy songs that burst with intensity and in a way “Pleistocene” could’ve closed the album well, but once we find ourselves a minute into the closer “Holocene”, it’s clear that importance of this atmospheric song is massive, nonetheless due to its concluding quality, not only for this album, the two-part saga in general.
Compared to its predecessor the album feels more progressive, experimental and even cinematic, but just as heavy and raw in best post-metal manner. Comparing the two is hard because they are part of the same concept, but the follow-up is not only worthy, but perhaps even stronger. The Ocean Collective have managed to grow and daringly expand their artistic expression, while at the same time reaching the next level of popularity and recognition. Potential seems unlimited and at the point in time when looking at the band’s creativity and skill, but also taking into consideration that these days, when the band easily appeals to fans of Mastodon, Gojira, Tool and Porcupine Tree at the same time. On top of all that in the course of two albums The Ocean Collective has managed to tell a story of our planet in a contemporary philosophical way that here in 2020 seems more relevant than ever.