Green as Emerald, Carrion Sun, Oceans of Slumber Fitzgerald's March 20, 2015
It's rare that a band gets an opportunity to make a second first impression, and Oceans of Slumber arrived at Fitzgerald's on Friday night prepared and determined to make the most of this unlikely shot. After all, the prog-minded musicians are hardly new to the local metal scene, having first assembled in 2011.
But the recent additions of keyboardist Beau Beasley and singer Cammie Gilbert to the group have opened up exciting new possibilities in their sound, illustrated beautifully by Oceans' one-take cover of the Candlesmass classic "Solitude" that went viral a couple weeks back. A very large and curious crowd turned up for a free show over the weekend to celebrate the release of Oceans of Slumber's new EP, Blue, and see what the new-look band could do with a full set of tunes.
Opening the show was local five-piece Green as Emerald, who arrived onstage to the recorded thunder of gunfire to crank out a polished batch of American heavy metal songs. Guitarist Judson Duncan led the attack with some slick, original leads, augmented by a righteous cover of the Refused's "New Noise." He kept it right up through the next set from his other band, Carrion Sun, which delivered another dose of capable, dynamic crunch. The swelling audience responded favorably to both acts.
But as Oceans of Slumber began unveiling and assembling their rather elaborate stage set, the whole club seemed to fill up in a blink. There was an excited buzz in the air. Since the addition of their new faces, Oceans has taken on the feel of a group going somewhere exciting and new, and the growing ranks of their Houston fanbase were eager to see that vision executed.
A subtle murmur of excitement rippled through the crowded floor when the first laser shot out into the dark. As we discussed, Oceans of Slumber had come well-prepared for this moment. Bathed in a soft LED glow, Gilbert swayed and moaned as the band locked into heavy, comfortable grooves. Her rich and expressive voice immediately proved to be a bewitching fit for the group's often gentle and moody explorations, and the singer easily held her own up there with some of the best musicians in town.
Beasley's synths filled out their sound very nicely on atmospheric instrumental passages, but things got especially exciting when Gilbert's voice revved up into a wail and drummer Dobber Beverly unleashed cascading rolls and fills on his custom-made kit. These moments, perhaps more scattered than they used to be, served as potent reminders that, despite their artier proclivities, Oceans of Slumber can be heavy as hell when they want to be.
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Blue is built around some thoughtfully chosen cover tunes, the staging of which turned out to be the highlight of the evening. "Solitude" drew big cheers, but it was the group's woozy and exotic rendition of Led Zep's "Kashmir" next that really blew the big crowd away. No way they pull that one off without Beasley's keys and Gilbert's piercing cry.
The band's version of the latter-day Pink Floyd cut "On the Turning Away" was even better, allowing Gilbert's plaintive voice to take full command of center stage at last. As lasers blazed overhead, more than a few people in the audience seemed to shiver with goosebumps.
Oceans capped their performance with a pounding track from their debut LP, Aetherial, starting up the very first mosh pit of the night. It certainly sounded good, but Friday night was undeniably a celebration of where Oceans of Slumber is going, not where they've been. With the new additions, the group seems to have raised its own ceiling for success. They've got a new album's worth of original material due out later this year. It's going to be fun to see (and hear) what fresh heights this lineup is capable of.
Personal Bias: Lasers make everything better.
The Crowd: Thick. Fitz felt crowded upstairs and down.
Overheard in the Crowd: "That guy needs a haircut so bad."
Random Notebook Dump: Folks were happy to see local guitar god Marzi Montazeri from Phil Anselmo's band hanging out down front.
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