Majestic, empowering, poetic and confident, this is easily both the band’s best release and one of the best rock releases in years.
We are the Ocean (WATO) are a band who could be seen as living in the shadow of others. In particular, WATO have paralleled the career of Deaf Havana for years, with both releasing post-hardcore albums simultaneously, both losing their frontman and ‘scream’ vocalist simultaneously and both releasing critically acclaimed new albums as a four piece simultaneously. This however, is where the similarities end. Deaf Havana continued to grow, scoring lucrative support slots for the likes of Bruce Springsteen whilst increasing their own following and another critically acclaimed album two years ago. WATO released Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow which, whilst a very good record, simply paled in comparison to Deaf Havana’s Fools and Worthless Liars and Old Souls. It seemed WATO were destined to forever be second best to other bands in the scene.
Without a doubt Ark is WATO’s Nevermind, and could very well be the launching pad to send the band into the stratosphere.
Lead single and album opener Ark is a four-minute epic that would sound right at home opening a bond movie. The borderline nonsensical lyrics, changing time signatures and Liam Cromby’s soaring vocals really give this track a feeling of majesty. The choir backing vocals and clashing drums further add to this, as do the violins and gradual build to the final chorus.
Surprisingly, the album doesn’t continue in this vein, although it is better for it. The next song I Wanna Be boasts one of the dirtiest bass lines you’ll have heard in a while, whilst Cromby’s strained and urgent vocals give the track a certain back-alley bar sound to it.
Cromby’s vocals have developed significantly since the last release. They were already very polished, but often would fail to reach a certain level of energy. Throughout Ark however, Cromby really shows his vocal range, going from a soft, almost feeble tone (iTunes bonus track The Great Unknown) to a rough, triumphant bellow on second single Do it Together. Trickles of previous album Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow come through, with There’s Nothing Wrong developing the sombre yet optimistic sound found on previous album closer Chin Up, Son.
There’s an obvious classic British rock influence on this album. Shere Khan has a very catchy riff with a solid if unspectacular chorus. Third single Holy Fire has a certain nostalgic quality to it, coming through particularly clearly during the verses before leading to a restrained and uplifting chorus.
Lyrically, Cromby hasn’t crept too far from the territory he covered on Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow, although there is a very noticeable increase in sex-fuelled content, further showing the classic rock influence on this record. I Wanna Be, Do it Together and The Midnight Law all show more of this edgier lyrical style, which the band support well with an edgier combination of playing styles.
The album slows down with Hope You’re Well, Letters to Michael and There’s Nothing Wrong. The latter boasts some of the best lyrics on the album, with a simple yet heart-warming message of moving past hardships to ‘keep on keeping on’. Letters to Michael is the most minimalist song on the album, a simple acoustic-driven letter to (presumably) Cromby’s father. It’s a welcome break from the full-band assault that constitutes the rest of the release. Hope You’re Well is a guitar-driven ballad. The guitar work in the chorus complements the vocals well, with the various flourishes throughout the verses providing the best riffs on the album.
Album closer awkwardly titled Remember to Remember Them is another epic, similar to Ark, clocking in at 5 minutes. From the opening guitars to the crashing riffs, the return of choir vocals as Cromby shows off his velvety tones in the chorus, which is built to for an astonishing 3 and a half minutes. This was the perfect choice to close the album; not only does every instrument and every vocalist get the chance to shine (and they all fully capitalise on this chance), it ends the album on a high note, before fading back into the silence that opens Ark.
All in all, this really is a great album. It’s easily the best of their career, and is finally allowing the band to step out of other’s shadows. The creative direction the band have chosen was a brilliant decision, as most of their fan base will be unused to this style of music from this type of band, giving the album a very fresh yet classic sound. The ball is now in Deaf Havana’s court, with album number 4 currently being written, will they be able to match WATO?