Coming off an exceptional year with a critically acclaimed album and turning out to be one of Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy's favorite bands for 2014, Oceans of Slumber could easily be lauded as Houston's hardest-working metal band (or hardest working any band, for that matter). Once described by Russ Russell - the iconic producer for Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir, etc. - as "the perfect mixture of sheer brutality with ultimate musicianship," the band has the chops to juggle many genres while at the same time still walking on the tightrope that puts the heavy in metal.
OOS have just released a new EP, Blue, and are about to make their live debut with new line-up that includes new female singer Cammie Gilbert. But at the helm is Dobber Beverly, drummer for the band. He takes a minute out of his busy schedule -- they'll soon be releasing a new full-length album and heading out on tour -- to chat with us. Trust us: catch them tonight before they take the world by storm.
Houston Press: On your new EP, there are a good amount of covers... some, perhaps, unexpected like Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and Pink Floyd's "On The Turning Away." Why did you guys decide to do that? Dobber Beverly: This EP came to light by our recent lineup change. We were outrunning ourselves in the songwriting process and had to do something to halt the machine. With our new record finished and us having to sit on it until we find the right avenue for release, which seems to be independent again, we needed to constructively use our time.
Six months after the release of our first record, Aetherial, we had the whole second record, Winter, finished. We write at a crazy rapid pace due to the chemistry in the band, and nothing has changed in that department.
How did you go about picking the songs for this release? It was just a stab into the pool of music we all grew up with and we'd always wanted to interpret. Sometimes you just hear a song and you either just want to have the pleasure of performing, say you weren't the original creator but wished you were, or you hear a song and you think, "Yeah, I get where they were going and I want to continue on with it."
The first song is from Candlemass and they, arguably, could be charged with creating doom-metal. Not just doom from the Sabbath side of things, but morphing of it into what it has become by today's standards. "Solitude" is a masterpiece and it falls into that "Wish I would've written it and I want to play live" category.
"Kashmir" is just an ungodly piece of music to begin with. This is a song I've personally been trying to arrange for 15 years. This band was the time and place for that. We wanted the namesake to involve itself more, so there is more of an ethnicity to the opening and it develops as it goes. The intensity builds until the end where a nice modulation happens and it turns into true '70s psychedelia to the end.
"The Emperor" is our Wes Montgomery/George Benson take on Emperor's beautiful instrumental "The Wanderer" -- which may be originally penned for the Schubert song cycle, or the short story that was based off of. Beautiful black-metal melody that we built upon briefly.
"On the Turning Away" is just a genius piece of music. Also, the time at which it came out signified a lot to most of us. It was the late '80's and for most of the band, the intro to Pink Floyd. Also, turbulent times in the world, and the song spoke then -- and speaks to us now. The orchestration of the song is one thing, but the solo for that particular song is one of [David] Gilmour's best and Sean nailed it to the letter. Love, love, love that piece of music.
"Memoriam" is one of our songs and one night in the rehearsal room we decided to run through to check for vocal inflections for Cammie. Other places she could take it. So our guitarist Anthony cleaned it up and incorporated both guitar parts into one for ease of playing and you have precisely what we heard that night. Two magical-musical entities flowing as one, and creating something very moving and special.
"Turpentine" is a track off of our new record and it received the same treatment. We had this whole Southern boudoir vibe going with a doom song, and I wrote the back end of it to mirror and contrast it in the same vein. So a Southern shuffling blues song that remained very dark in overtone.
Story continues on the next page.
Obviously, this release is quite the departure from your debut, Aetherial. Was that a conscious decision, or is it just how you've evolved? We are a progressive band. We change with the mood. Things are generally laid out like a film and we write to that. Establish a story, develop characters, and fill in where needed. Where Aetherial was our first encounters with each other, the rest of what we create is a cohesive spearhead into what has proved to be the beyond for us.
Critics have compare you to a lot of bands: Opeth, King Crimson; some even say Mastodon. How would you describe your sound, and are your okay with being called "prog-metal"? Awesome company to be mentioned alongside of, for sure. We kind of have some of those elements, but not really at the same time. We are a progressive-music group. Certainly metalheads, but also not limited to any one time or space. Everything is a dynamic marker or tempo marker.
The members in the band range from fairly educated musicians to highly educated musicians, and we do our best to expand that knowledge and our ability for expression every day. The band will undoubtedly change again and again, which sounds awesome to me.
What can we expect at Fitzgerald's tonight? Also, how do you feel about headlining Texas Metal Collective's Sweetwater Slayings at SXSW the very next night? It is Cammie's first run with us, but she is a pro as you can get. We are also debuting our new synth/sonic manipulator extraordinaire Beau Beasley. If everything goes as planned, it will be an evening of sonic excesses that should stimulate the ears and stir the soul. We hope. Haha.
Headlining the Sweetwater Slayings is icing on the cake. We'll be in the company of many great bands from around the country and plan to do our best to represent ourselves, and independent artists everywhere.
Is there anything else you'd like to add? If you aren't a pop-music person, you should remember that all of the wonderful music you love has a hometown. If you have a band or artist that you fully connect to, spread the word about them. If it means something to you, it means as much or more to the artist that created it.
Oceans of Slumber celebrate the release of their new EP tonight at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, with Carrion Sun and Green as Emerald. Free for 21 and up; doors open at 8 p.m.
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