OCEANS OF NIGHT – ‘Domain’ (Ambient)
‘Domain’ is the second release from Oceans Of Night, a progressive metal band featuring the undoubted talents of multi-instrumentalist Scott Mosher – probably not his real name! – aided by vocalist Scott Oliva and mystery drummer Alan Smittee. Oceans Of Night grew out of Scott M’s former self-titled band who’ve released four albums under the Scott Mosher name. So there is plenty of pedigree here, and it shows. The instrumentation and songwriting are both top-notch, and the production is also flawless throughout. OK, a lot is made of the fact that Joey Vera mixed and engineered it, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the material he had to work with.
A ten-track monster reminiscent of the works of Arjen Lucassen, the 65 minute album is dominated by the opening (and title) track. ‘Domain’ clocks in at seventeen-and-a-half minutes, with a tranquil ambient opening overrun by crashing power chords: the seemingly relentless riff with the power of Pagan’s Mind and the passion of Pink Floyd ebbs and flows effortlessly for six-plus minutes before Scott cuts loose and solos like a man possessed. After that comes a period of breathing space – just enough to allow you to drop your guard – before nailing you a second time. And be warned: the final twist in the tail will hit you square between the eyes.
“Interestingly, it was the first track I wrote for the new CD,” recalls Scott M, talking about ‘Domain’, “and its grand ‘epicness’ was originally 21 minutes long. I think I cut out much of the extraneous and repetitive musical fat and now the song is a slim and efficient seventeen-plus minutes,” he laughs. “Seriously, the CD was always going to be titled ‘Domain’ and it was more a matter of which song encapsulated – musically - the ambitions, the lyrics and atmosphere of what the name represented, and, obviously, an almost eighteen-minute song did just that. How it came about is pure stream of consciousness, spontaneous musical fortitude: the song FELT like it literally poured out of me, when in reality I think it was more a slow leak. Many, many listens to the ‘final’ version of a song of that scope eventually dictates the length: honestly, it becomes more of an instinctual thing. After I write the darn songs, editing is another part of the battle with the musical beast – knowing where and when to trim and what to cut out, or, in some cases, what to expound upon. But more often than not, depending on the musical themes presenting themselves, it's usually a matter of excising things that don't need to be there. It's a bit of a time-consuming process, but when you feel strongly about a song or piece of music, it's almost a delightful challenge to undertake. Hopefully the end results speak for themselves.”
After such a roller-coaster ride anything is likely to be rather anticlimactic, although don’t write off ‘Domain’ the album too soon: this is no one-trick pony and the remaining nine songs all have plenty of excitement and exhilaration up their musical sleeves. Personal favourites are ‘The View To You’, half the length of the title track but just as potent, the instrumental crash ‘n’ burn of ‘Instruments Of Fear’ and the Fates Warning-ish ‘Don’t Look To Me’.
The aim in creating the album was simply “just continue to write music we enjoy and further the musical ambitions of what has come before in the Oceans Of Night musical catalogue. I think we've already established our ‘style’ of music rather well, so now it's just a matter of refining it a bit, and exploring new song conventions and ideas within our, admittedly, vast area of musical genre. There's really not many limitations insofar as what we feel we can and should do - it's more a matter of where we need to pull ourselves in and restrain ourselves from being too indulgent or vague. I do feel we achieved the goals which were (and always are) pretty simple: write good and interesting music. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Bizarrely, Scott reckons the whole thing came together quite quickly. “All of the songs are new and were conceived during a very fertile time of musical creativity in my life, basically around September of 2010 through the summer of 2011. I wrote probably two CDs’ worth of music, and continue to write more. In fact, as of this exact date in time, mid-February, 2012, I have enough music for the next two CDs which Scott [Oliva] and myself are currently completely immersed in.”
As for Scott’s personal highlights, “I do always have songs I like more than others,” he confesses, “but being the sole musical composer I do have so much invested in all of the songs as I wrote, arranged and performed most if not all of the music. That said, there are still songs that stand out for various reasons, even to myself, ones that took on a life of their own beyond what I imagined, especially after Mr. Oliva applied his vocal magic: ‘Domain’ itself, ‘The Future Remembered’, ‘The View to You’ and ‘Instruments of Fear’ are ones I do feel strongly about.”
It is a shame that this is a studio project. “It would be good to have an army of robots dressed like evil clowns that do my every tyrannical musical bidding!” Scott laughs. “But unfortunately, it is not a touring band. We are strictly studio only. So that alleviates any headaches over tour riders, stadium merchandising, paying the truck drivers and beer for the roadies. Interesting you brought that up though, as a number of people have asked about doing live gigs over the years. It is something that is in the back of my mind, but not very actively. I suppose if the right offer came together and the stars were aligned in the right order we might contemplate that.”
Ok, so as you’re not going to see Oceans Of Night live, not for the foreseeable future at least, go to www.oceansofnight.com and give your credit card some exercise. You won’t regret it. Trust me on this.
© John Tucker February 2012