After dropping their sensational EP Black Label last year, Ocean Grove have been absolutely everywhere in the Australian heavy seen. From performing alongside In Hearts Wake, The Amity Affliction and August Burns Red to signing with UNFD and dropping Intimate Alien late last year, to earning a coveted triple j feature album with debut album The Rhapsody Tapes, it’s been impossible to ignore their rise – and for good reason. So does The Rhapsody Tapes, hailed by the band as an introduction to their own world of ‘Odd Music‘, live up to the hype?
Opening tracks What I Love About A Natural Woman and Beers kick the door in with gusto. The former serves as a disjointed, industrial prologue to the album, with the grinding synths and psychedelic effects giving way to the straight up aggression of the latter. Ocean Grove have mastered the art of pinpointing exactly how to utilise harsh and clean vocal combinations, with the fast growls of Luke Holmes wonderfully contrasted with the desperate, unsettling melodies bassist/singer Dale Tanner. The same praise can be heaped upon Thunderdome and These Boys Light Fires, with both songs foregoing the usual formulae of verse, breakdown, chorus, slower breakdown, instead opting for down the line pop-structures dressed-up with distortion and angst.
Despite their obvious talents in both songwriting and technical restraint, there are admittedly some points throughout the album which feel like clunky, unnecessary fillers, taking away from the overall power of an otherwise dynamic album. When You’re This High You Can Say What You Like and Mr Centipede both have their fair share of meaty riffs and vocals, but both songs march along resolutely and refrain from going anywhere musically. Likewise, album closer Hitachi serves as a dark, droning, electronic outro that sounds more like the interlude between songs used by a metalcore band in a live set circa 2010.
That said, perhaps the weaker points on the album are the result of the band testing their own musical boundaries, rather than travelling the safer route of sticking to their guns – a bold move for a debut album. For example, glitch-hop interlude From Daylight doesn’t necessarily add any substance to the overall flow of the album, but the experimentation and introduction of unpredictable elements is refreshing. The willingness to innovate and push boundaries will no doubt be a huge benefit to the band over time, as their songwriting skills continue to flourish and expand.
Where the band do get it right is on the stadium-sized epic The Wrong Way, with Tanner taking centre stage and allowing his vocals to soar above an ocean of triumphant guitars and thundering drums. It’s the closest thing to a hardcore ballad that I’ve heard, and it complements the heavier, faster side of the album beautifully.
While parts of The Rhapsody Tapes need tweaking, one thing is for certain: Ocean Grove have carved out their own unique brand of metal that will inspire countless younger musicians across the country to remove any limitations they may have set on their sound. The boys have dived into uncharted waters with confidence and conviction, and it shows in the consistent commitment to new sounds throughout the record. When they get it right, the results are incredible.