It’s time for …And Oceans to be unleashed again.
Formed in 1995 in Finland by Timo « T » Kontio (guitar, Festerday, Magenta Harvest) and Teemu Saari (guitar, Festerday), the band would go through a musical evolution before changing its name to Havoc Unit between 2005 and 2013, then they just stopped.
But in 2017, the two guitarists unite again to revive …And Oceans, which counts in 2023 on Kauko Kuusisalo (drums, Aegrus, Gloria Morti, Gorephilia), Antti Simonen (keyboards, Morian, ex-Alghazanth), Mathias Lillmåns (vocals, Dispyt, Festerday, Finntroll…) and Pyry Hanski (bass, Before the Dawn, Gloria Morti, ex-Aeonian Sorrow…) for the release of As in Gardens, so in Tombs, its sixth album.
The album starts with As in Gardens so in Tombs, the eponymous track, which quickly traps us in its as violent as majestic storm, easily combining impressive melodies, blast and visceral screams. The track cuts with the heady central break before crushing us again, then The Collector and His Construct starts at full speed with a similar construction which is also very effective, whether in the most raw parts or in the worked accompaniments. The waves of sound lead us to Within Fire and Crystal where the atmosphere is slightly more martial before keyboards and screams bring a haunting and melancholic touch, which will be magnified by Carried on Lead Wings, a composition with very marked Old School roots. The intense contrast between the different elements gives the track some rhythm which lets us navigate on its fast riffs before the mysterious Likt Törnen Genom Kött takes over and lacerates us with piercing leads. The solid rhythmic is not put aside, as it brings a raw basis to the vocal parts as well as to the dark and ominous orchestrations, just like on Cloud Heads which won’t take long to choke us with aggressive riffs. The surprising break will make the hurricane slow down before letting it free to guide us to Wine into Water, a song with a much calmer atmosphere than the others, using slow and heavy sounds before going back to speed, which will also be one of the characteristics of Inverse Magnification Matrix, the following track. The theatrical break gives the band an extra strength when the rhythmic comes back to life to strike us with bewitching keyboards, then The Earth Canvas unveils darker and heavier tones which fit perfectly with the melancholic and gloomy atmosphere. Ambivalent God, the longest track, reconnects with sharp Old School leads contrasted by airy and majestic keyboards allowing the rhythmic to slow down or accelerate at will in the company of overpowering vocal parts. The sound gradually fades away before being brought back to life by the short Samlarens Valv and its catchy riffs, which are sometimes accompanied by occult keyboards, and then by Third Eye Catalyst, the last track, which closes this sixth chapter of the band’s history with an as aggressive as fascinating mix.
Not all bands succeed in making such a comeback as …And Oceans did. As in Gardens, so in Tombs is perfectly in line with their excellent previous album, which skillfully mixes devastating Black Metal with grandiose astonishing.
Few questions to Timo and Mathias, respectively guitarist and singer for …And Oceans.
Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce
yourself and the band …And Oceans without using the usual music “labels”?
Timo: Hello, thank you for this interview! Timo here, one of the guitarists and founding members in …And Oceans. …And Oceans is a band who is not afraid to explore different worlds of sound and will do whatever it wants so more or less you can expect the unexpected.
Mathias: Hi there, I’m Mathias, the singer. …and Oceans have done anything from classic Symphonic Black Metal to pure Electronic music, so the sky’s the limit!
As in Gardens, So in Tombs, your sixth album, will be out soon. How do you feel about it? Do you already have some feedback?
Timo: Obviously we are very happy about it. This is often said and as often questioned, but to be honest we strongly feel that this is the best one we’ve made so far. I personally think every aspect on this album is in its place, songs, sound and artwork. We have gotten just great feedback from interviewers. Reviews on media are just starting to pop up, but a few which we have seen have been also great.
How would you sum As in Gardens, So in Tombs up in only three words?
Timo: Aggressive, melodic, balanced.
How did you deal with the composition process for this album? What about its name and artwork?
Timo: Well, for me it always starts with writing riffs as much as possible. Then trying to arrange them into a whole song. Melodies and leads can be so that first comes the lead or rhythm guitar. I try to include leads and melodies to songs, but that is not necessary. They have to serve the song. Normally I get help from our keyboardist Antti who is a wizard with recording tools etc. so he also makes suggestions of arrangements for my or Teemu’s riffs to make a song. Another way of writing songs is that Antti makes a song with keyboards and then we add guitars on them. That is working really nicely. There are four such songs on this new album. The name is coming from Mathias. He has done all the lyrics and our artwork guy Adrien has made the cover and all the other graphics according to lyrics and his interpretation of them. Mathias gave some hints of the meaning of the lyrics though.
Mathias: I can’t really tell if there’s a certain process to this on my end. I usually just write down sentences that pop up in my mind at any given time. It can be during the night when I wake up, driving to work or in a cramped airplane. I usually collect these sentences under different categories, so if it’s not within the frames of a certain concept I will save it for another album or band even. As Timo said, we always have demo versions of the songs for all members to give feedback on and sometimes some of my sentences in my sentence bank just clicks with a riff and then I usually write the rest of the song in a frantic, trancelike state.
What inspires you to create your music? Same question for the lyrics. Do you feel some changes compared to the band’s early years?
Timo: Difficult question. One would think that after all these years nothing would inspire anymore. For some strange reason I keep doing it still. For me there is no particular source of inspiration. It has always been so that I just grab my guitar and start to play. I try to make aggressive and/or melodic kind of riffs normally. Then if I manage to write a rhythm part with some great melodic lead with real emotion and feeling, that is something that inspires and keeps me going. So you could also say that the end result with all the ingredients and the final mix of the song. That is one thing that keeps me going. It is always a special feeling when the puzzle is done and all parts are ready and well thought of while doing them and you hear that for the first time in the studio. Nothing has changed in the way I write music since the first days. As a band there is a change in writing, Antti writes music also with keyboards so that there is not just one part, but whole ready made song.
Mathias: As I said before, inspiration can strike anywhere. Back in the day I needed to be in a very dark place mentally to be able to write something from the heart. On the new album I was at home feeling pretty well-rested and living healthy because of not being able to travel and tour, so I had to change the process and in the beginning force myself to write even if I was in a good mood. It took many attempts to shake something out of the pen that I was happy with, but when the flood gates opened there was no stopping it!
Do you have a “favorite” song on this album? Or maybe the most natural one you wrote?
Timo: Normally I always have an idea of the favorite song before entering the studio. After leaving the studio it can be different. When playing them live it can change again. This time I think Likt Törnen Genom Kött is one the fave ones.
Mathias: For me it’s probably Within Fire and Crystal. I really like how that song progresses and just moves forwards, with the first half being almost a different song than the second half and still it works. It’s also really nostalgic for me taking me back to Covenant’s In Times Before the Light and Troll’s Drep De Kristne which were my fave albums in the later parts of the 90s.
How do you manage to keep the balance between orchestrations, visceral vocals and sharp riffs?
Timo: I don’t really know, haha. If you mean music wise in one song, then it is just something we realize when we have a ready made song and also along the way making it. Sound wise of course we have an understanding that you can’t fill all the frequencies when writing songs etc. You might hear it when demoing etc. Sometimes you realize it when mixing. Like with this record it was a challenge with a few songs with all the keyboards and leads fighting to distinguish themselves so we had to lower eg. keyboards to give room for lead guitar.
Do you have some plans for the band’s future?
Timo: Not like a five year plan or anything like that. We go from one record to another. Of course our main focus is now to support this album as much as possible. Meaning gigs and tours. With the last record this wasn’t possible so we are more than ready to support this one.
Are there any musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for one song, an album…
Timo: No, not really. Haven’t really thought of this.
Last question: With which bands would you love to tour with? I let you create a tour (or just a single show) with …And Oceans and three other bands!
Timo: Of course I would like to tour with some of my personal faves from the early days. With some bands it is not possible anymore like the obvious Dissection and like Limbonic Art. Gehenna would be cool and Emperor if they would tour. Dödheimsgard would be interesting too. I think the aforementioned band in one tour could work.
That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Timo: Thank you! Please check our latest album and see you at gigs, on tour…