OCEANS – We Are Not Okay

OCEANS – We Are Not Okay

"I can’t handle feeling this way anymore" exclaimed in pure anguish at the start of a recording leaves no room for doubt: this is not going to be an album filled with life-affirming odes to happiness engandered by this wonderful world. Then again, the schizofrenic cover and the simple title should have done the job already. In fact, judging by these clues you may think you’re dealing with just another emocore band. However, the German-Austrian quartet is more than meets the ear, mixing alternative, metalcore, deathcore and some traditional metal in a fairly unique fabric just over 16 minutes long standing up to and gaining from repeated applications. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before in different configurations, a Meshuggaic syncopation here, a Lincoln Parkian clean there, an atmospheric Slipknotic climate followed by a contemporary In Flamesian melody some other place, but "We Are Not Okay" is a powerful soundtrack and tribute to mental illness and human struggles with it, the same tragedies Ocean’s previous two EPs, "Into The Void" (2019), "Cover Me In Darkness" (2019), and last year’s full length "The Sun And The Cold" told, and for what it is it is remarkably excellent.

Listening to this four track album, I get an impression as if Timo Schwämmlein (vocals, guitars), Patrick Zarske (guitars), Thomas Winkelmann (bass) and Jakob F. Grill (drums) created these songs while they lived them. When Timmo asks an unknown friend to call him and have him come over to talk or just sit in silence I feel he really means it and the huge deathcorish riffs bolstered by his monstrous growls only drive the point but not as much as the clean-sung supermelodic chorus. The feeling can’t avoid you, to borrow from Paradise Lost’s "Jaded" of an all-pervasive suicidality which will be confirmed verbatim later. For now, a Slipknotic "Subliminal Verses" atmosphere opens up the lighter and catchier but no less impactful face of Ocean aided by the heavy emotional outpour of one Robert Conrad Flynn of Machine Head fame. "Everyone I Love Is Broken" – what does that say about this world?, everything I watch is dead inside – what does that say about me?, cries out Timmo while Robb supports him with the heartrending "Why does no one hold me as I cry?". It may seem like too much for some but probably not for those who have felt the freezing clasp of depression and hopelessness. Songs like these remind us, ironically to Robb’s cry, that we, who think this world is nothing short of a raging dumpsterfire, who too often think that music is the only reason to stay on it for one more day, are NOT alone.

Then there are those who hear or perceive in their head different "Voices". Not many will admit to that but Timmo and guest female singer Elena "Lena Scissorhands" Cataraga readily do in a decidedly deathlier and meaner track but this time one of the voices is one of hope telling us to stand up as we’re stronger together despite Timmo’s who wishes he was dead. The most interesting track in this, admittedly very even, affair is the closing "Shark Tooth", guest singing Annisokay’s Chris Wieczorek, a kind of Korn by the way of contemporary In Flames melodic short summary of us who are not okay.

Mental illness is no joke yet the wounds are invisible, sufferers often denied care or even consideration. Often he or she is ridiculed, called lazy or, more recently, "conveniently not well". Bands like Ocean and Machine Head remind society that suffering is incalculable and often hidden, and not just among the poor, disadvataged or the unknown as we found out with Chester Bennington’s, Chris Cornell’s and Robin Williams’ departures, three souls who had enough of that hell most Christians sing God lovingly holds in His hands. May we have more voices of truth about our human condition(s), with excellent music to boot voices laudly and clearly crying out that we are sick and tired of all this circus we watch everyday with swollen eyes and that, for our part, we are not okay with it.