Birmingham, UK’s Oceans Ate Alaska has already achieved so much in the short time that they have been together!
After forming back in 2010, they signed with Density Records in 2012 and released two EPs Taming Lions and Into The Deep that same year. Founding members James Harrison (Lead Vocals), Chris Turner (Drums) and James “Jibs” Kennedy (Rhythm Guitar/Backing Vocals) were now joined by Adam Zytkiewicz (Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals) and Mike Stanton (Bass) before they decided to move across to Fearless Records in 2014; which resulted in them being a part of the Punk Goes Pop 6 compilation album, where they covered Beyoncé’s hit “Drunk In Love”. Oceans Ate Alaska went on to release their debut album Lost Isles in February 2015.
Since then, they have appeared on the front of the cover of HM Magazine, were pegged as a “Band To Watch” by both Rock Sound and Revolver, as well as also landing on Alternative Press’ “100 Bands You Need To Know” list; let’s not forget being billed to play the entire 2016 Vans Warped Tour!
Unfortunately Oceans Ate Alaska announced they parted ways with founding member and vocalist Harrison in late 2016, however that opened the door for long-time friend Jake Noakes to step up and fill the vocal void on the upcoming second album that was also announced. Fast forward to May 25th 2017 and Oceans Ate Alaska teased their hungry fans with the first single “Covert” from their sophomore album Hikari; not bad, considering it all started out as an experiment by Turner!
Within the opening seconds of opening track “Benzaiten”, you know that you’re in for a treat; the album opens with the sound of running water before traditional Japanese instruments start to set a beat. Not long after though, the heavy guitars and intense drumming that Oceans Ate Alaska fans have come to expect make their first appearance on this track; the traditional Japanese instruments start to fade into the background as the band builds up to Noakes releasing his opening lyrics in a deep growl. The song takes a couple of unexpected twists and turns along the way, however it most definitely sets the scene for what to expect on Hikari!
“Sarin” starts off with some back and forth between the guitars and the drums; there’s a small sample of a very sci-fi-esque sound, almost that of a phaser being fired that gets layered over the top and repeats a couple of times before the vocals come in. You’re treated to some nice soft lyrics before Noakes’ voice wraps itself around your body and holds you into place as it assaults your ears! A very nice mixture of clean and unclean lyrics alongside the tempo of the music changing depending on who’s singing, most definitely makes for a nicely polished track.
The first single to be released to Oceans Ate Alaska fans, “Covert” is a song that’s been written with crowd anticipation in mind! From the opening drum beat, Covert instantly gets the head banging; the vocal energy of Noakes seems like it has been somehow lifted. The opening lyrics of the chorus “I’m just so scared to admit, act like I don’t give a shit: Hide behind this masquerade, HIDE BEHIND THIS MAS-QUER-ADE!!!” really hit home and are going to most definitely have the crowd screaming the house down. The last words “So sick of feeling like this, Trapped in this ignorant bliss; To live to like this, trapped in this ignorant bliss” before the softer 30 second instrumental outro really hit home once more as they replay in your ears.
“Hansha” takes you on another beautifully unexpected journey. For the most part, this song is harmonic and softer compared to the opening three tracks. There are a few small appearances by Noakes where the tempo lifts, but it’s only temporary; this will be another song that really gets the crowd singing along and it will be a most beautiful sight for those who are in attendance!
Booking you a ticket back to the heavier spectrum, “Deadweight” opens with some really impressive guitar sounds and a floor shaking drum rhythm that sets the head off once again; Noakes once again shows how much passion he has for his new role, with his unclean vocals really showcasing how hard he has worked. The breakdown halfway through is one that is going to get a crowd worked up, bodies flying and security on their toes; Turner takes a small break on the drums before returning to set off the constant headbanging for who knows what number time.
“Veridical” is a beautifully constructed instrumental that resides in the sixth track slot on this album, which just so happens to be the halfway point. The shortest track on the album coming in at only 1:50, it starts out with the softness of traditional Japanese instruments before the heavier sounds that Oceans Ate Alaska are used to playing get layered over the top approximately 40 seconds through. It blends together beautifully before the metal aspect takes the lead towards the later part of the track; however the instrumental piece does end with the same traditional Japanese instruments from the opening of the track fading out.
Starting out with a slightly uplifting mix of guitar and drums, “Entrapment” then shifts the tone down a gear, before Noakes lets his all too familiar now vocal talent shine. The chorus sticks to the trend of hard hitting lyrics, which really draw on the emotion within the listener! Roughly halfway through, Oceans Ate Alaska change straight from the hard metal sound to a traditional Japanese instrumental; this is then followed up by a layering of the two together which lead into the last chorus of Entrapment.
The title track of the album, “HIkari” lives up to its Japanese inspired name; the opening minute is just a very angelic and soft Japanese instrumental. The introduction of Oceans Ate Alaska comes with Turner starting a drum beat, closely followed with a nice clean, harmonization by the clean vocals. Noakes makes a small appearance in the opening chorus, chanting “I AM ON THE VERGE OF DISCOVERING” three times, as the song continues with the cleaner, melodic vocals. The song shifts up a gear about two-thirds in; becoming heavier as Noakes’ vocals dominate, before HIkari ends with a hypnotic drum/bass outro.
“Birth-Marked” launches at you like a guard dog behind a chain-link fence; it’s loud, it’s ferocious and it’s out for blood! There’s a small respite in the form of angelic vocals that tend to control the beast that is Birth-Marked, however that calming hold breaks when Oceans Ate Alaska take you into a nightmare; the tone drops, the intensity increases and “Hush little baby; don’t you say a fucking word” is creepily spoken before a baby is heard crying. There is one last attempt at reigning the beast in, but Birth-Marked is having none of that. This song is loud, in your face and isn’t going to back down so you better be prepared!
By far the shortest song on Hikari at only 1:20 minutes, “Ukiyo” certainly worked hard to earn its place; it’s another beautiful instrumental that showcases Turner’s talent and passionate, hard drumming behind his drum kit alongside the beautiful soft, melodic sounds of more traditional Japanese instruments. This should most definitely make an appearance during Ocean Ate Alaska’s next tour, as any music fan would love to get to watch Turner‘s abilities live!
The second single that Oceans Ate Alaska teased their fans with, “Escapist” is also the last on Hikari; after the relaxing instrumental of Ukiyo, Escapist straps you in for one last session of headbanging! Oceans Ate Alaska haven’t pulled any punches, clearing saving all their pent-up energy for the end! Escapist is most definitely going to be a well-received addition to the live set, as it has everything needed for the perfect song; sing-along choruses, circle pit inducing breakdown and crowd surfer inciting guitar work; this reviewer’s mosh battered body hurt all over just from listening. Escapist and Hikari come to a close the way it started, with a traditional Japanese instrumental.
‘Hikari’ is out July 28th via Fearless Records, pre-order the album HERE.