People have the innate ability to progress and grow. Thus, it’s through change that we show our most human side, as we often get stuck with baggage and open up our flaws for the whole world to see. Considering that bands are simply collections of individuals creating music together, they tend to go through the same process, changing just as the people that make up them do. Watching hardcore quartet Being As An Ocean in their career has been exciting because of the way their sound has evolved with the many challenges it takes being in a touring band: losing members, playing to new crowds, and growing older. On their third and self-titled record, the group turns a lot of these changes into positive growth, but also reveals a few shortcomings as they begin to come into their own.
The most surprising thing about this album is that it’s the first the band has put out that didn’t immediately suck me in from start to finish. While Dear G-d… showcased a lot of human emotion through its ultra-personal lyricism, How We Both Wondrously Perish unleashed much of its emotion in shining musicality, as the group tightened up their instrumentation and added new dynamics to their sound — the biggest being the addition of guitarist/clean vocalist Michael McGough. On Being As An Ocean, the band mixes the connective aspects of both releases. They try their hand at multi-perspectival storytelling, using a steady, formulaic songwriting approach to express the vivid emotions that rage beneath each song’s scenarios.
“Little Richie” is a great example of the band maturing their writing style. The lyrics are dense and direct in the verses, reminiscent of La Dispute on their narrative-driven Wildlife. Here, they detail the life of a flawed father from his son’s point of view; yet when it comes to the chorus, they take a more concise, broad direction (“How can we know love if we have never shown it?). Another strength throughout the record is the way Quartuccio utilizes biblical stories and ancient characters, keeping them in close contact with the present through relatable themes like sin and forgiveness. The opener draws in listeners with a modern tale, working its way up to “Judas, Our Brother,” which recounts Judas’ betrayal of Jesus over 2,000 years ago. Listeners can vividly experience the emotions that are still felt from that situation. The theme of generational abuse pops up throughout the album; people and bands may change, but the frontman’s accounts show that human nature doesn’t.
The album’s main flaw, however, comes in its overt focus on consistency in its songwriting. On one hand, the scream-sing approach allows McGough to shine on many of the choruses, but on the other, Quartuccio ends up pushing himself into a box on many tracks. Though it allows the two vocalists to enhance their dynamics first established on Perish, it means less spoken word vocals and more mid-level screams for the frontman. There’s not a ton of experimentation in this record compared to the first two, with the few obvious instances missing the mark (i.e. the out-of-place edited cleans in “Ain’t Nobody Perfect”) and more subtle ones featuring unique strum techniques, pedal effects, and percussion — all things you’re beginning to expect with a Being As An Ocean record.
Typically, these conventions would be a bore, but the lyrical inspiration and musical passion, especially in McGough’s majestic voice, make this record anything but. Tracks like the two-part “The Zealot’s Blinfold” and “Sleeping Sicarii” find the clean vocalist at his most memorable. The cause-and-effect relationship between unwavering faith and political extremism are explored through a crafty mix of bouncing melodies, determined anger, and chanted vocals. The succeeding “Judas, Our Brother” had a ton of potential from its story, but repeats a similar chord progression to “Sicarii” and lacks the same replay value of the rest of the songs. The cuts that find Being As An Ocean at their best are also the album’s standouts, “St. Peter” and “Forgetting Is Forgiving the I.” The former showcases everything this band does well. Ambient guitars and spoken word vocals lead up to a mountainous chorus, with inspiration bleeding from its storytelling and overall musical vibe. The latter exhales staunch post-hardcore with high-tuned guitars, concluding with an epic vocal back-and-forth (“We play the victim!”).
Being As An Ocean is a band that people connect with because they breathe the human spirit into their music. Their career has been a short one that’s seen a ton of growth in their unit and their fanbase thus far, and I’m sure they’ve gained a ton of confidence as musicians since landing such a treasure in McGough in 2013. With more time, the band could’ve added a number of quality tracks to this record. It’s not that this album feels rushed, as the quintet pieced together several emotion-filled stories that blend together seamlessly, and for the most part, they executed well. To enhance their overall identity, though, their sound dynamics and writing need a little more flexing and outward movement. Being As An Ocean’s self-titled record finds the band progressing, and by its end, it’s obvious that the hardcore quintet still has lots of room for that.
Melodic Hardcore | InVogue Records