I am always a bit skeptical when a band sends a big, folded poster press release along with their CD. I get more concerned when the amount of pink and purple start to outshine the black and gray as if the 80’s were all of a sudden ‘hip’ again. Houston, Texas’ Oceans of Slumber’s debut ‘Aetherial’ has all these warning signs and against my better judgement, I decided to not judge a CD by it’s cover and give a listen. Thankfully, Oceans of Slumber is a sonic powerhouse, despite their taste for album design.

Album opener ‘God In Skin’ is a twisting frenzy of a song, ready to derail at any moment but holds together and at times, really packs a serious punch. The melodies heard on ‘Coffins Like Kites’ (what a title!) are bittersweet, full of emotion and vision and the song does a great job of moving between various mood swings without sounding forced or fatigued. It is rare in extreme music that I get to hear guitars layered in reverbs and delays, hammering taping like EVH on an 8-ball (remember my 1980’s reference earlier?) and I must say that it is a nice diversion from the typical cascade of tremolo picked barre chords. My opportunities to hear and appreciate clean vocals are even fewer, fortunately vocalist Ronnie Allen performs well, whether it be a guttural roar or a wide-range harmony.

For as often as I find myself unsatisfied with a songs structure, Oceans of Slumber soon redeem themselves with a great hook and moody atmosphere that resolves the entire piece. Having pushed themselves as a progressive metal band with influences from death metal and King Crimson, I find this album more agreeable with each listen.

Although the recording is so wet that it drips with reverb and delay, Oceans of Slumber’s musicianship is solid, sealed shut and water tight. Just listen to ‘Only A Corpse’ if you don’t believe me! Fans who appreciate a band that can play their instruments rather than abuse them will find much to their liking on ‘Aetherial’.