Label: Apes Who Looked Up
Breach | Submerge opens up in a way that doesn’t make things easy. Sparse percussion and gentle guitars blend in with tasteful saxophone, and the first two minutes and forty five seconds could almost convince the listener that they’ve put the wrong record on. Then, with a few snare hits for warning, Cetacean‘s (post) metal comes crashing in, and it is as heavy as a sea monster. What follows over the course of 34 minutes is progressive metal that is, by turns, skull-crushingly heavy and life-affirmingly glorious, full of labyrinthine twists and turns, endlessly restless and bewildering. Yet for all the prog leanings and obvious technical skill of all involved, it’s no exercise in show-boating that forgets to write actual riffs and songs. Instead, Breach | Submerge is hugely addictive, and a hell of a lot enjoyable than any record comprised of three songs, each one stretching over ten minutes long, has any right to be.
Comprised of veterans from bands including Black Sheep Wall, Exhausted Prayer, Ancestors, and Horse The Band, Cetacean manage to blend the best sludgy, monstrously heavy moments of riff-heavy post-metal with prog turns and sweet, catchy vocal melodies reminiscent that bring to mind the likes of Torche and Baroness (most notably towards the end of first track “Earth Is A Whisper”). There’s a heavy vein of melody running throughout the album – even at its most crushing and violent, there is still something there to latch on to, to stop you from drowning in seas of negativity and malevolence. That none of the tracks linger too long on any one idea or riff is also to its credit – as long as they are, they do not feel bloated or over-indulgent, and when a sequence is drawn-out – as on second track “Relationships Deteriorate” – it is clearly done so to hammer home the intended atmosphere and feel, rather than feeling like a case of “we’re out of ideas, so let’s just play this one riff real slow for five minutes”. And even in such cases, there are still subtle elements evolving and unfolding in the background, meaning that, even at its most oppressive and bloody-minded, Breach | Submerge is never stagnant.
What makes the record shine for me, though, is just how good the juxtapositions between the crushing heaviness and lighter, brighter sections are; and how effective the deep, full-blooded bellows are when placed alongside riffs that contain more than a hint of melody. Indeed, it’s slightly startling to sit back at the end of Breach | Submerge and consider just how many different moods, atmospheres, and contrasts it runs through during its duration. For a debut release, it is remarkably self-assured and brave, and even if you might argue that it doesn’t exactly add anything new to the genre, it’s the way the band put together familiar pieces in ways that make them seem exciting and novel that is so worthy of praise, and sees them make good on their self-described “Pink Floyd meets Slowpeth” promise. This is more than capable of being considered alongside the so-called big boys of the genre, and fans of bands such as Intronaut, Isis, or Baroness would be well advised to check Cetacean out.
Breach | Subermge is due for release on January 29 on CD and digital, with a double vinyl version to follow in spring 2016. All versions can be pre-ordered via Bandcamp.