Album Review :
Oceana - Birtheater

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Artist: Oceana
Album: Birtheater
Label: Rise Records
Release Date: May 26, 2009
Review by: Michael Mayer III

Tracklisting:

  1. Breather II
  2. The Family Disease
  3. The Constrictor
  4. Dead Speaker
  5. Mother Love
  6. In Birth
  7. Boneworks
  8. The Abortion Plan
  9. BOA
  10. I Came as Dust, I Left as Dust
  11. The Spine Collection
  12. Devil Walk, God Walk (Heaven Walk, Hell Walk)

There is probably nothing more frustrating to me than when I listen to an album and over the course of it a band doesn’t take advantage of their strengths. It’s even worse when one of the areas I consider a weakness is the primary focus. That’s exactly how things are for me when I spin Oceana’s sophomore album, Birtheater.

The weakness I speak of is the screaming that’s featured in nearly every song. Without the lyrics in front of you it’s pretty much impossible to understand what’s being said. I can sometimes deal with that if it’s done right but that’s not the case here. Each scream has this muddy, low-key quality that sounds a lot like static or white noise, likely a production problem more than the way he’s screaming. Because of that there’s no variety in the screams and most songs tend to sound like the last. That’s never a good thing.

The tracks I love the most are the ones that use what I consider Oceana’s strengths. That would be anytime they sing and use any resemblance of melody. ‘The Family Disease’, an absolute gem of a track, is a prime example of this. The singing is so catchy and addictive that it instantly stuck in my head after the first listen. I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of the best songs of the year. The vocals are smooth and clear as they deliver the lyrics in a passionate way and they aren’t too high either. Unfortunately, only a few other songs have a good amount of catchy singing in them to help distinguish them from the rest of the album.

Lyrically, the album is rather dark with a good deal of the subject matter being about abortion and birth in some way or another. It’s not a concept album but rather a running theme across the majority of the songs. Combine that with the superb artwork and it’s certainly a redeeming quality that helps keep Birtheater from being ‘just another album’ in an over-saturated genre.

Overall: The ultimate question is whether or not the pros outweigh the cons. This definitely isn’t The Tide as far as the screaming and guitars go and that may bug some people. On the other hand, if you enjoy phenomenal singing and great melody you’ll enjoy at least half of the album with the other half being tolerable at the very least. From what I understand these guys are young and it sounds like they could be working towards something big. A few kinks just need to be ironed out in the meantime.

Gems of this album are: ‘The Family Disease’, ‘Dead Speaker’, ‘Mother Love’, ‘The Abortion Plan’

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