Album Review: Oceans Ate Alaska – Hikari

Sometimes beginning a new chapter in life can be a frightening thing. There are always obstacles. Unknown factors that could make or break the new endeavor. This applies to a multitude of situations, one of which is the realm of bands and their music. Oceans Ate Alaska seem to be a group which do not subscribe to the potential worry and fear that could come with the level of experimentation they put into each record. They began with more of a straight up metalcore sound with their EP Into The Deep, and singles “Taming Lions” and “Clocks”. They then became what could only be called one of the most experimental, progressive metalcore bands in the entire genre with their 2015 mind-bending release Lost Isles. Now though begins one of Oceans Ate Alaska‘s greatest chapters yet.

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Genre: Metalcore/Progressive Metalcore
Label: Fearless Records
Release: July 28, 2017
Connect: Facebook | Twitter
Purchase: iTunes | Google Play
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In late 2016 it was announced that original vocalist James Harrison would be departing the group. This news came at a time when many were under the impression that the band was working on new material, and also came as quite the shock to many fans, and just as many wondered what this meant for the future of Oceans Ate Alaska. For months the waters were quiet. Finally on February 1st, 2017 Jake Noakes, a good friend of the band, was announced as the new singer. Not long after that, the band let the world know that their new album had finally been finished. It was to be called Hikari, and would release on July 28th. A moment many had been waiting for, and thus the salivating anticipation had begun, and now the wait is finally over. Hikari has many Japanese themes throughout; many song titles and lyrics are derived from the culture, and on top of this some songs even feature true Japanese instruments. This exercise in a new territory of ideas and sounds, layered with their signature prog-metalcore design proves that Hikari promises to be their most aggressive, yet beautifully executed album to date.

The album begins with what could solidly be argued as one of Oceans Ate Alaska‘s heaviest songs to date, “Benzaiten”. That could in part be due to Alex Teyen, of the group Black Tongue, who is featured on the song. The album begins with what sounds to be a shamisen (a three stringed, traditional Japanese instrument), an eerie yet beautiful sound, then quickly shifts into a blisteringly heavy intro, full of palm muted guitars and blast beats to match. New vocalist Jake Noakes truly gives it his all, proving he is a more than perfect fit for Oceans Ate Alaska. “Benzaiten” is a blood-curdling way to begin an album. OAA knew this, and they chose the perfect track to reintroduce themselves.

Recently the band have recently been releasing small snippets of tracks from Hikari building the hype up for the release, that leads into the second track. The band decribed how the song “Sarin” is based off a Japanese poison, and thematically is used in the lyrics for the track. The actual poison can cause suffocation and muscles paralysis. This notion as a metaphor perfectly applies to so many tumultuous or disheartening situations that anyone could face, so lyrically in a song it gives many listeners subject matter that they could relate to one way or another. Musically you’ll feel anything but paralyisis as this song will without a doubt have you banging your head whether you’d want to or not.

“Covert” was the first single and the worlds introduction to Jake Noakes as Oceans Ate Alaska‘s new frontman. It had that staple sound the band had truly perfected on Lost Isles. Noakes had a similar sound to his screams as Harrison did, but had a little more force on the lower end. Although Harrison had fantastic clean vocals, he lacked the range that Noakes was able to show new and old fans alike that he was completely capable of. This had that original sound many loved OAA for, but you knew that there was much more in store. Heavy, yet super melodic; this was the perfect first listen to OAA Jake Noakes.

“Hansha” seemed completely ‘out of the box’ for a band such as this. In comparison to past OAA, or even to many of the songs off of Hikari, this track showed a much softer side. Favoring clean vocals over screamed for the majority of the song, Japanese/ambient inspired elements, and a definite heavy, albeit a…less angry (for lack of a better way of putting it) overall sound. Once again new ground for OAA, but a more than welcome one for sure. Hansha, loosely translated, means reflection. We all reflect on our lives from time to time, and both lyrically and musically OAA seem to be doing the same.

Title track “Hikari” has Oceans Ate Alaska‘s most experimental and bold intro to date. It begins with an almost smooth jazz sound. This is the absolute last thing you’d ever expect from a band such as this, but they pull it off amazingly, and oddly enough fits in with the rest of the song seamlessly. This track would be considered one of the more tame on the album, yet it lacks no impact through its creativity.

“Escapist” was the second single released, and yet another banger on a more than solid album. Border lining on the OAA of the Into The Deep days, the song tends to lean on a more metalcore base, with slight Japanese instruments used intermittently as to keep with the theme of the record. A perfect song to make any wary fans of old feel a bit more comfortable with the bands new transition, and an absolute killer track for any new listeners.

With Hikari, Oceans Ate Alaska set their eyes on new horizons. They took on a new vocalist, and seemingly had found a new sense of direction, experimenting with elements, themes, and sounds previously never touched. Hikari retains everything fans from day one had loved about the band, but with every new little sound and thought provoking lyric, they more than show us that they will always strive to be fresh, and will never be scared to push any boundaries or so-called limits. This album is ferocious and beautiful all at once, and many will agree that’s a combo that had been long lost in the progressive metalcore world. Hikari in English means light. Very fitting as once again Oceans Ate Alaska prove they have a very bright future.

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