“We embrace the harshness of our climate, environment, people, our music scenes, and the pride there-in,” says drummer Dobber Beverly of Texans Oceans of Slumber. “From country to jazz to extreme metal and everything in between. Most of us are kids of the ‘90s and we were raised on Stevie Ray Vaughan, King’s X, Watchtower, Pantera, Absu, Imprecation, etc. So, we’ve definitely got state pride and are very proud of our wonderful hometown Houston and its blossoming music culture.”
If the phrases “Don’t mess with Texas”, “Everything’s bigger in Texas”, and “This ain’t my first rodeo” sound cliché, well, they might be. But they describe Oceans of Slumber perfectly. The Houston-based sextet are profoundly great musicians—check out their stirring interpretation of Emperor’s “The Wanderer” called “The Emperor”—the vocals of front woman Cammie Gilbert are bigger than life, and they were smart enough to resolutely ignore the advances of several labels that weren’t the right fit. Indeed, Oceans of Slumber are Texas to the core.
“Oceans has been around for about four years and we’ve all been friends for the last 10 years,” Beverly informs. “I was in-between projects after Insect Warfare and another death metal band had disbanded, and I was also sharing a room with a couple of the guys. We had agreed to get together and try to write some darker hard rock songs and change things up a bit. Before our first rehearsal together Sean (guitarist, vocalist) and I had a conversation about just doing whatever the hell came naturally. So, that kind of went out the window. Everyone in the band has a fairly high degree of musical ability, or education, and we decided to use that to our advantage and just go for it.”
And go for it they did. Oceans of Slumber quickly rose from obscurity to local heroes after forming in 2011. In the span of two years, the group wrote and recorded their self-released debut album, Aetherial. Praised for their diversity, celebrated for their instrumental chops, and admired for their ability to out-prog any band in a 1,000 mile radius, Oceans of Slumber’s best-new-band status in Houston, in Texas, and across the world was well-deserved. But something was missing. They had the spark but needed the fire. Oceans of Slumber found their fire in Gilbert, a singer who’s vocals are an unbelievable mix of power and grace.
“She was honestly the piece of the puzzle we were missing all along,” Beverly raves. “From the beginning of the band I’ve wanted it to be female fronted. I wanted the dynamics, the delicacy, and the rage only a woman’s voice can offer. All of us can sing and the guitarists and bassist handle all of the screams and heavy stuff anyway. Why not cover the full spectrum? We want to try and represent ourselves as the mature and somewhat classy cats that we are and she is the perfect person for the job. There aren’t many bands writing music like ours that are fronted by a woman and that quite distinguishes us from the pack. And we’re extremely happy about it.”
While most people from Space City have had a chance to see Gilbert and Oceans of Slumber in the flesh—actually, the Texans supported Evergrey and Voyager on their first official continental tour of the U.S. in 2015—the band’s popularity online, particularly for their incredible cover of Candlemass’ “Solitude”, continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.
“It’s an amazing song that sadly is only known by a certain crowd,” reflects the drummer. “And mostly a certain age group. We took a brilliant song and made it a bit edgier. Put more grit into it, more death/doom in spots, more hard synth/distorted bass, and also changed the delivery of the whole thing with Cammie’s southern and sultry delivery. The song always struck me as a southern blues man’s doom song and most of us are some kind of southern blues men. So, it was a necessary musical excursion from us to a broader audience that may have been craving familiarity and wanting a fresh take at the same time.”
And that kind of begs the question. From covering Emperor and Candlemass, to writing songs King Crimson and Dream Theater would be proud of, Oceans of Slumber aren’t an easy band to peg musically. Certainly, they’re progressive in the traditional sense, but they’re not limited to Genesis-
inspired runs or the instrumental gymnastics of Transatlantic. They have heart and soul. But they’re informed by black metal’s nefarious note choices just as much as they’ve intensely read into Wes Montgomery’s jazz guitar approach. So, who are Oceans of Slumber?
“A moving picture set to music,” says Beverly. “We are quite cinematic and write with a grand scene in mind. Boundary less and uninhibited by particular musical styles or scenes. Take the ‘70s atmosphere, blues, and psychedelia, the ‘80s electronics and avant-garde rock, ‘90s metal, groove, and sludge, and update that with our current millennium’s vicious black/death/doom and love affair with dark fusion and soundscapes. Toss that all in with my Classical background, Anthony’s (guitar, vocals, synth) jazz education, and Cammie’s gospel/hard rock/blues upbringing, and you have the base idea of where we’re coming from.”
Indeed, Oceans of Slumber’s new album, Winter, is a deft amalgam of all things melodic, complex, heavy, atmospheric, and forward-thinking. Whereas Aetherial was more of a test—to see how the group would gel—Winter is the product of focus. It’s less left-field, but at the same time far more adventurous. It’s also a darker, more grandiose effort as well. Tracks like powerful “Winter”, the introspective “Lullaby”, the rockin’ “Suffer the Last Bridge”, the heartfelt “Turpentine”, and Oceans of Slumber’s unbelievable cover of The Moody Blues’ hit, “Nights in White Satin” are not-so-subtle indicators that the Texans are poised for greatness.
“[Winter was a] very emotional record to track for us,” he remembers. “And it left many a teary eyed moment for us. We’ve got death and doom at our roots and it’s on display in a different way with this record. The whole record is my favorite moment, because it’s meant to be taken in in its entirety. The title track ‘Winter’ sets the mood from the beginning. It has the lush atmospheres we love, the melodic grandeur, the brutality, and the beauty that we need to offset it all. Then into the vicious and groove laden ‘Devout’. After that a very special treat that may lend itself to many a listeners familiar ear and then falling head first into Lullaby. A beautiful song crafted out of a family melody that Cammie’s family had passed down through the years. Then, the driving arena metal of ‘Suffer The Last Bridge’. By midway it’s into doom territory and rips your heart out with ‘Sunlight’ and ‘Turpentine’. The most brutal song we’ve written yet, ‘Apologue’, ventures into territories I’ve never personally heard from a female fronted band. And it ends in the most epic farewell to forlorn love, ‘...This Road.’ Then into the ending and my ode to love, life, and despair, ‘Grace’. And then there’s the music between songs. It’s almost as important as the main tracks themselves.”
Winter was recorded by friend and engineer Craig Douglas of Origin Sound, with additional tracking being handled by another friend named Mike BBQ at Big Door Studio. Together, they got a record that’s big, heavy, clear, dissonant, yet one that’s warm to the touch. As for the mixing and mastering, Beverly and company went to famed producer Russ Russell (Napalm Death, Amorphis). Clearly, Oceans of Slumber wanted a record that listeners will fall into emotions first.
“We had Winter mixed and mastered by sonic madman and additional league of extraordinary gentleman chair holder, Russ Russell. Russ was chosen for his connection to our type of music. He’s most definitely a fan of ours and big sonic footprints. And so are we. Producing fell on us making the decisions and Russ putting his personal stamp on things. He was the sixth member during this process.”As for next steps, Oceans of Slumber are readying for the release of Winter, the group’s first for Century Media. And they’re getting prepared to grow, to become bigger than Texas, a band not to mess with musically (get ready for Oceans of Slumber to top Year-End Lists and Best Musician Lists), and to eventually find their way into a headline tour, not just of the U.S. but anywhere the world will take them. In short, Winter is coming. And it’s splendidly beautiful yet remarkably dangerous.
“We want to be in everybody’s ears, heads, and hearts,” smiles Beverly. “Given the opportunity we would like to be a band that has a place in the world to call home and we’re ready to work our asses off to achieve that. You won’t find a more dedicated band.”