Deep black seas are an Italian progressive band who use the term more literally than, say, Opeth or Dream Theater. Sure DBS employ a fair degree of heaviness, something that should come as little surprise given that the band’s debut album is produced by Sylvia Massy of Tool fame, but there is a far more pastoral progressive side to the band aligning them more closely with King Crimson and Porcupine Tree than with the extreme end of metal and the result is an album that veers wildly between gentle soundscapes and extreme brutality via a great melodic sensibility that sees tracks such as “I liked that” recalling the lush beauty of PT’s ‘Lazarus’.
Not that Deep Black Sees don’t rock, when they’re in the mood they can kick it with the best of them and there’s a rawness to the metal side of things that sets the band apart from Opeth’s more carefully produced violence. Opening track “wind of pain” sets the scene nicely with an opening acoustic guitar overlaid with atmospheric effects suddenly torn to shreds by a guitar/organ twin assault that roots the band somewhere between the excess of seventies prog (think ELP) and the ferocity of Barren Earth. It’s a great opening to the album and it is instantly apparent that this will appeal easily to fans of PT, and Riverside with its intelligent song structure and stunning production. What really surprises is the fact that this is a debut effort (2007’s ‘hypocrisy’ EP not withstanding) and yet the band seem utterly self-assured, never rushing to the hook or trying to seduce the listener in – rather they play music on their own terms shifting moods and tempos when it suits them and the result is a record that sounds both confident and mature. “I liked that”, as mentioned in the introduction to this piece, is a beautiful tune that recalls PT’s ‘Lazarus’ in its simple beauty and memorable melody before we head into altogether darker territory with the string-backed riff fest that is “ashes from my eyes”, an urgent, scything blast that sees alternate death metal barks and clean singing battling against the brutal backdrop. It’s not all about weight however, the band employ awkward time signatures and unconventional solos to maintain the attention and there’s often so much going on that it takes several listens before you start to appreciate the depth in each track even if superficially it’s enough to take your face off! “come on” is rather more of a straight forward rocker – a moment for band and audience alike to cut loose and let their collective hair down which works well and will undoubtedly light up the live set.
“Weeping tears” sees a shift in mood and dynamic to a more reflective state of mind with downbeat guitars backing an impassioned vocal performance and it’s a high point of the album that deals with the difficult subject of suicide in one of the most sensitive, compelling and intelligent ways a rock band has yet achieved. It’s a traumatic, yet beautiful moment and it forms the centre-piece of this sombre yet excellent record. “before dying” steps away from despair and opens with a deceptively heavy riff before returning to the more melodic pastures of the first pair of tracks. It recalls progressive artist Steve Thorne vocally but the chorus strays back into far heavier territories than that artist inhabited and the overall effect is to make you realise that this is a very special band indeed. As if you were any further need of prof, the final track is a dense, bass-heavy, twisting song that relies on a thunderous, tribal tom assault and perfectly phrased progressive vocals. With heavy guitar sweetened by the gentlest piano and swathes of organ, it takes the most unexpected of turns following the chorus – but that’s something for you to discover, not for me to ruin the surprise.
In the final analysis this is an excellent debut. It quietly references a lot of very good progressive acts but also stretches beyond those, particularly on songs such as the mind-melting “soul freedom” to deliver something that sounds satisfyingly different and genuinely adventurous. The production is, as you would imagine, perfect, allowing the instruments equal clarity and imbuing the guitars with a hefty kick when needed. Heavy, melodic and thrilling this is certainly worth exploring and, ultimately, immersing yourself in.