I was flicking TV channels when I stopped on VH-1 or something similar. A video was playing. The drums were choppy and the guitars crunchy. I watched until the end but that was no more than 45 seconds. The title and artist came up. ‘Catalyst’ by Oceansize. Meant nothing to me, but instead of shrugging and moving on there had been something in those 45 seconds that made me immediately get on the computer where I discovered the band was from Manchester and the track was from an album called Effloresce, which had come out the year before.
I called a friend who worked in a record shop and asked if he had a copy. He did and he said he’d pop one in the post. The following day Effloresce arrived.
My life changed.
After the initial play, my first thought was Tool meets Radiohead. Tool for the noisy bits and odd time signatures and Radiohead for the understated passages.
By the second play of Effloresce it was obvious that that description barely scratched the surface of what was actually a bold, ambitious, dense, heavy, tender, teasing, thrilling album. And that Oceansize were a bit special.
Second track ‘Catalyst’, where this all began, starts with broody, crunchy guitars that you hope presage a monster riff…and boy do they. Then the guitars drop out and tender, crooning vocals make an appearance before another build up, another drop out, always keeping you interested, always fooling you about where the track will go next.
Fourth track ‘Massive Bereavement’, a second shy of ten minutes, trips along merrily for the first half then explodes into a frenzy of tormented vocals and furious guitars before the last minute or so is just a glorious riff-fest building to an abrupt, dramatic climax.
Bear in mind this was Oceansize’s debut album. But instead of merely showing promise or potential Mike Vennart (vocals/guitar), Steve Durose (guitar/vocals), Gambler (guitar), Jon Ellis (bass), and Mark Heron (drums) gave us a band already fully in control of its destiny, brimming with self-belief and confident in its desire to push rock into fascinating places.
Some of this must come from having such a magnificent drummer as Heron, whose skilful and creative playing underpins everything Oceansize do, both when they are blowing out your speakers and whispering softly into your headphones, both of which they do brilliantly.
Gentle, sometimes quirky, passages punctuate the album, creating a seamless flow of music and making you aware that the running order, an often under-appreciated aspect of the whole listening to an album experience, is absolutely perfect, complementing the light and shade of all the twelve tracks as well as within individual tracks themselves.
Amputee shows Oceansize’s effortless grasp of dymanics as well as capacity to rock out and quickly became a live favourite while the album finishes with three tracks, all over eight minutes, that leave you slumped in your seat, speechless at Oceansize’s genius.
Its maybe not as immediate as later albums but that’s no bad thing. Effloresce’s layers upon layers mean it requires a lot of plays to take in and fully appreciate everything that’s going on.
You feel Oceansize could be capable of writing a soundtrack for the fiercest, action-packed Hollywood blockbuster or for the most subtle, understated of movies. A soundtrack for life itself.
At various points throughout Effloresce it feels like Oceansize already has
Written by Bruce Smeath