Artist: Oceans Ate Alaska
Review by Steve Jenkins
Oceans Ate Alaska don’t exactly fit into the typical metalcore tropes. Sure, there’s the plentiful breakdowns and low-tuned chug goodness, but their frenetic guitars and odd time signatures put their debut Lost Isles on a different level than the typical album in the genre. Although the record did tend to get tiresome at times, small doses provided a big kick, but still allowed the record to flow without overstaying its welcome. So, with a new vocalist in tow, Hikari proves that their debut LP was no fluke, and release a robust record that stays true to their sound without resulting in a sophomore slump.
Although much of what made Lost Isles great remains on Hikari, the record as a whole feels far more varied and fresh. New vocalist Jake Noakes proves his immense capabilities, far outdoing anything previous vocalist James Harrison could do. Jake’s clean vocals are more melodic and less grating, and are carefully placed throughout the album rather than interjecting at random. ‘Hansha’ is a great example of this, as his higher vocal register croons over the erratic instrumentals during the runtime of the song. His harsh vocals are also nothing to be messed with; his more deathcore-esque screams result in the heavier moments on the album feeling that extra bit ‘extreme’, never detracting from the stop-start instrumentals, particularly on songs like ‘Deadweight’. The production also lends a great helping hand to not only Jake but the entire band. The album perfectly balances out the instrumentals, even if the bass is perhaps not as loud as it should be at times, and allows Jake’s vocals to really grip the listener.
Hikari overall proves a far more mature outing from a band who had seemingly found a niche that they would stick with. The namesake song on the record begins with a more subdued intro before slowly developing over time, with the relatively simple song structure proving to be a blessing that the band blossoms into a fantastic track. The album overall feels more fleshed out; the implementation of traditional Japanese instruments, along with a shorter runtime, allows the band to broaden their work and implement more variety into a sound that can quickly become overwhelmingly stale. And even when they stick to what they do best on songs like ‘Benzaiten’ and ‘Birth-Marked’, it hits far harder than in previous efforts. All instrumentals are entertaining and schizophrenic as ever; guitars stop-start at will, drums remain fantastically over-complicated, and the bass has some great moments, particularly on interim track ‘Ukiyo’.
Although it can be viewed as more of the same from Oceans Ate Alaska, Hikari is a wonderfully intricate album that still proves that the band have a few tricks up their sleeve. New vocalist Jake Noakes proves that anything you can do, he can do better, and enables the album to feel more complex and intelligent than previous efforts. Although the sound can become tired at times, Hikari puts Oceans Ate Alaska at the top of their game, and really proves the staying power of a band who had seemingly branded themselves as just another metalcore/deathcore hybrid.
8.5 out of 10 stars.
Hikari is out now via Fearless Records.