pe·la·gi·al [puh–ley-jee-uh l] – 1. Of, relating to, or living in open oceans or seas rather than waters adjacent to land or inland waters; such as, pelagic birds. 2. Living or growing at or near the surface of the ocean, far from land, as certain organisms. 3. Of or pertaining to the sea; marine
After 2 years of relentless touring in North America, Europe, Russia, China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and Australia, The Ocean have resurfaced with what could be their deepest and most trailblazing piece of work to date, Pelagial: a progressive musical journey, written, recorded, mixed and to-be-performed-live as one single 53-minutes piece of music. Mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia, Witchcraft) at Fascination Street Studios in Örebrö, Sweden, Pelagial is set to be released on April 26th / 29th (Europe) and April 30th (North America / world) through Metal Blade Records.
The concept of the album is made evident in its title, Pelagial. Listeners will be further submersed as they journey with the band, beginning at the surface of the ocean and plunging through all five pelagic depth zones: epipelagic, mesopelagic, bathyalpelagic, abyssopelagic, and hadopelagic. In synch with diminishing light and increasing pressure as one dives or sinks deeper into the ocean, the album begins rather light and progressively gets heavier and slows as the band reaches the unfathomable depths of the hadopelagic zone, characterized by complete darkness and a thousandfold increased pressure as compared to surface level. What is remarkable about Pelagial is that this is not some detached conceptual idea; this can actually be heard and felt while listening to the album.
Pelagial is one continuous piece of music. The tracks, or episodes, are connected by interludes and underwater sounds and samples taken from old submarine movies, which give the album a menacing and claustrophobic “Das Boot”-kind of atmosphere. “There are track marks, and there are actual songs built into this larger structure, but the whole album is a journey rather than a number of loose tracks… some riffs appear in the first 2 minutes of the album and then reappear 30 minutes later”, comments Staps. It’s an experience that will reward repeated listens.
“My original plan was to write a stepless musical progression, like a continuous colour blending from white to black, says Staps, “but I soon realized that it could not be that linear. It needed to stay interesting after all, and this is something that is usually best achieved by employing unforeseeable elements. In the end, any good idea must be put into perspective by its musical impact.” And so the listener will experience swirls and vertical currents while listening to the album; short, unexpected faster passages in between, sudden tempo changes that will make him feel like he’s rising again for a short bit – but the general direction is very clear: “You can feel from the beginning, it’s going down. Deeper and deeper.”
This continuous downward movement is also reflected in the album’s sound: starting with a clean, produced “surface”-sound and progressing towards a more open, ambient, distorted and abrasive sound for the doomy depth-passages at the end of the album. To make that happen, Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia) had to face the challenge of mix the album in one go, which resulted in the epic amount of 288 audio tracks!
Originally conceptualized as an instrumental album, Pelagial now comes in 2 different versions that will be released together: with vocals and instrumental.
Vocalist Loic Rossetti has been facing severe health problems due to the band’s relentless touring activities and needed a break. Furthermore, the album concept, at first glance, did not really seem fit for vocals: “we obviously did not want to sing about battles between sperm whales and giant squids”, comments Staps. But Rossetti recovered during 2012 and the decision was made to have him on the album. “Loic is the frontman of this band and we all felt that this band and this album needed him”, says guitarist Jonathan Nido, “and though we were all quite used to the instrumentals, I’m glad we decided to record vocals in the end, because it really adds a new dimension to the album that was not there before”.
Analog to the journey from the surface into the depths of the sea, the album’s lyrics take the listener on a journey into the abysses of the human mind. Much like the protagonists in Andrey Tarkovsky’s movie “Stalker”, Pelagial is a psychological journey towards our own inner self and subconscious… “towards the essence and origins of our desires, wishes, dreams, and all the fucked up attributes inside of our own inner selves that generate and shape them, says Staps.
In the movie, 3 men are travelling towards the heart of a zone at the center of which one’s wishes are said to come true. But the closer they get, the more insecure they become with regards to what they should actually wish for, and fear arises that even those wishes which they have no control over, which they may not even be aware of, might come true. The protagonists are confronted with their own nature, the true essence of their characters, and this essentially leads them to their own demise. This topic is the lyrical backbone of Pelagial. “There’s a lot of Freud-references in the song titles and lyrics, but a lot of the lyrics are very personal, and in that completely different from the -centric albums”, comments Staps.
A special acrylic boxset edition of the album will be released through Pelagic Records, both CD and vinyl formats. These heavy acrylic boxes will contain the CD digipak (Metal Blade Records) vs. the 2 vinyl gatefolds (Pelagic Records) respectively; which will be “buried” underneath 5 thick acrylic layers, coloured in different hues of transparent blue, reflecting the 5 pelagial depth zones.
These acrylic layers will be silk-screen printed by hand in Berlin with artwork by Martin Kvamme in April. The combined effect of the patterns that we will print onto the individual layers, and the material thickness (up to 1,5 cm!), will create a 3D visual effect when looked at from different angles and under different lighting conditions.
Both boxsets will also come with an extra DVD featuring a 5:1 dolby surround mix of the instrumental version of “Pelagial”, and the Pelagial movie by Craig Murray (Nine Inch Nails, Converge), which the band will also show as live video projections during their upcoming tours. This movie, which is the meticulous work of shooting, cutting and editing for a whole year, completes the holistic music- and visual art project that is Pelagial. For the full experience of the album, you must see the film!