Thu May 13 2010
Rats.  I should’ve known it was too good to last.  In 2007, The Ocean released Precambrian, a surging blast of everything I wanted out of modern metal.  Too heavy to be post-anything, too eclectic to be easily categorized, it was the album Isis might have eventually made if Aaron Turner hadn’t been so utterly seduced by Mogwai.  Last year, I heard that primary vocalist Mike Pilat had departed, but the band had never had anything close to a permanent lineup; how much difference could newcomer Loïc Rossetti make?

A shitload.  I’m usually the last guy to cry “sellout”, but Heliocentric is impossible to get my head around in any other sense.  It’s not all Rossetti’s fault, but he is a terrible singer.  His growls are hopelessly generic, but altogether too rare, because his clean vocals run the gamut from amateurish emo to off-key mumbly whine.  If these were his best takes, I shudder to think what he’ll be like live.  And couldn’t someone have corrected him on the pronunciation of “am-buh-goo-itty”?  I couldn’t believe my ears the first time through.

Guitarist/only-constant-member Robin Staps has never been a master wordsmith, and indeed, metalheads generally have to grade lyrics on a curve, but these are fucking laughable.  I’d love to scan all of the nifty little lyric cards that came with the disc (great packaging, by the way) and put ‘em up here, but that would be stupid.  Instead, I’ll just give you the final song, “The Origin Of God”:

A prime mover

Only shifts the problem

If every complex structure needs an architect:

Then this prime mover

Must be even more complex

Than anything he created

Who made your architect?

Who made your architect?

Where does he come from?

What is he made of?

(That’s the whole song.  Did creationism just crumble in your mind?)

Otherwise, what can I tell you: the pathetically thin production does not help these toothless, derivative guitar riffs, most of which rip off turn-of-the-century Isis (in particular, elements of “The Origin Of Species” were cut and pasted from “False Light”, from Oceanic) the way Scott Stapp rips off Eddie Vedder.  The orchestration, particularly in the putrid power ballad “Ptolemy Was Wrong”, is beyond cheesy.  Piano arrangements courtesy of that annoying chick in sixth grade whose favorite song was “Wind Beneath My Wings”.

In a musical climate where repetition is death, there are no sure things any more.  Reinvention does not automatically equal progression, but staying true to your roots doesn’t have to signal stagnation, either.  Starting my “biggest letdowns” list for 2010 right here.

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