Oceans Ate Alaska - Hikari
Review by Dom Vigil
Oceans Ate Alaska are stepping into new terrain with their newest release, Hikari. The album, which follows a vivid theme of Samurai mythology, blends traditional Japanese instruments with the band’s signature sound to create something utterly unique to the metalcore genre.
Hikari translates to “light” in english, and there are certainly distinct little slivers of this light throughout the album, even in its darkest songs. Opening track, “Benzaiten (feat. Alex Teyen)” is the perfect example of this, as it is very chaotic and dark from the get go, but with little moments of light in the guitar work and clean vocals. The following song, “Sarin” is mind blowing from start to finish. The pick scraping in the beginning of the song adds a level of anxiety and intensity that makes it hit even harder, but about halfway through, it breaks into this bright little passage. Clean vocals and stunning guitar work contrast beautifully with dark screams, gritty guitar work and frantic drumming. “Sarin” is a perfect example of the dynamic songwriting that can be found on the majority of Hikari - just when you think you have it figured out, it does a complete 180.
The themes on Hikari are airtight, and this is apparent long before the album's halfway mark. Despite drastic sound changes and creative songwriting choices, nothing feels out of place and overall, the songs feel very consistent. The only small hiccups come between tracks, as sometimes the transition from one song to another can be a bit drastic.
The diverse sounds on Hikari are displayed perfectly on “Hansha.” The clean vocal work on this song is beautiful, but thankfully the band never sacrifices the complex instrumentals in order to focus solely on the vocals. Although the wild guitar work might not be a focal point on this song, it never falls by the wayside, instead serving to compliment the vocals, making this slower track feel more cohesive with the songs surrounding it. Similar to “Sarin,” the mood and tempo of this song changes in the blink of an eye as well, taking you on an emotional journey. Songs like this sit surprisingly well next to chaotic tracks like the following “Deadweight.”
The instrumental and Japanese-influenced “Veridical” is a shining middle peak before flowing easily into the complex and wild “Entrapment,” which will make your head spin with wild tempo and tone changes. The transition between “Entrapment” and the following stunning and bright “Hikari” is night and day and for a moment, you might find yourself thinking that you’re listening to a different album entirely. After you get over the big change in sound though, you’ll feel awed by the band’s ability to master any sound that they experiment with. “Hikari” is a total triumph, and there are still three strong songs to follow before the end of the album.
Bringing Hikari to a powerful close are the final two songs - the bright instrumental track, “Ukiyo,” which features Josh Manuel on the drums and the explosive closer, “Escapist.” These two songs side by side perfectly showcase the incredible songwriting on Hikari and the album’s themes of light and dark. This album is a great example of follow-through - the themes are solid and the execution is perfect.Throughout these songs, Oceans Ate Alaska are able to show off a bit, showcasing powerful songwriting and storytelling all while experimenting with new sounds, and the result is spectacular.
LISTEN TO: "Hikari" or "Sarin"
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