Oceans of Slumber are red-hot right now. Not only are the prog-metal darlings recently signed to Century Media Records, they are up for a whopping seven Houston Press Music Awards Thursday night. One of those is for the video made for their cover of Candlemass’ “Solitude," shot by Josh Vargas (In a Madman’s World, Hair Metal Shotgun Zombie Massacre). The video was a part of their series for the band’s EP Blue, and Vargas shot them performing each song live in the studio in order to capture the sheer power that is one of Houston’s most exciting metal acts. Previously, Vargas had done a video for their song “Aetherial."
“When you get the call to come do a studio video sometimes you’re like, ‘Oh shit,’” says Vargas. “’Cause they can be kind of boring. It’s tricky filming them because they can come across kind of bland. But I felt that we were able to add a grittiness to it, and let the dynamic of the music dictate how everything moves.”
A good deal of the band's power comes from the one-of-a-kind operatic vocals of singer Cammie Gilbert. Even standing perfectly still singing into a studio microphone, she is able to emote through just glances and the movement of her lips and teeth in a way that some musicians can’t accomplish with their whole bodies.
Vargas is arguably the master of the basic band-capture video, something that has become his bread and butter in between making feature films. Through clever camera movements and a meticulous attention to visual framing and movement, he often brings a band’s performance style to life even within a tiny YouTube screen. He has also worked with Down, Soil and Phillip H. Anselmo, among others, falling ever higher up the echelons of great metal acts, a pantheon Oceans of Slumber is ascending to themselves.
“I remember shooting ‘Aetherial’ with them and thinking, ‘Yeah, they’re going to go somewhere,” says Vargas. “I knew they weren’t going to be local for long. And they weren’t. They do everything right, treat this like a business and invest in it. I’m not surprised they got signed.”
Fond as I am of Vargas’s performance videos, I keep hoping to soon see something a bit more conceptual and cinematic. I’m one of the few lucky Houstonians who has seen most of his Dean Corll biopic In a Madman’s World, and it’s a fantastic piece of work. The good news is that we might finally get to see that. Vargas told us that he’s about to start work on a conceptual video for “the biggest band in the world," though he wasn’t allowed to name them publically. The vetting process for the projects involved nine months of record-label scrutiny despite being endorsed by two founding members of the band themselves.
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“Jam videos are what people come to me for,” says Vargas. “And they’re great because they allow me to not have a day job and to hang out and meet my heroes. I’d like to get into doing more, though.”
Check out “Solitude” below.
Oceans of Slumber play a special acoustic set Friday night at Warehouse Live with special guests Anova Skyway. Doors open at 8 p.m.