Spread out in recording studios in Delaware, Maryland and Tennessee, Murfreesboro metalheads Ocean Architecture released debut album Animus in March this year, an experimental storybook of prog metal described as a “musical entity that tells an unfolding story about doubt, anger, perception, confusion, fear, insanity and enlightenment,” in the band’s words. In The Pulse’s words, the eight-track project, written between September 2010 and June 2011, has a lot to say, its shortest song clocking in at over five minutes.
What began as Kyle Standifer (guitar), Nic Giordano (drums) and Joe Dorsey (keys) expanded to a five-piece in March 2011 with Parker Deal (vocals, acoustic guitar, flute) and Eric Hodge (bass). Each track of Animus has multiple phases, beginning with the first track “Metatheory”, which is also the first song written as a band. The opener plunges into a deep sea of prog rock; cold, precise piano flourishes join up with somber vocals for part one. The tempo picks up, and the song’s hardcore integrity is wrecked by electronic-sounding spasms that choke the guitars, then it drifts into operatic ambient bliss, finishing with more erratic noise that sounds like a skee-ball game ending. That’s only track one.
Dreamy keys raindropping through nightmarish guitars are captivating on “The Last Stand” with abrasive vocals strung over clean instrumentation. All of Animus’ s instrumentation, whether erratic or composed, guttural or delicate, is deliberate, calculated, Deftones-y and sometimes flirtatious with a sort of hardcore Tim Burton film score appeal, like on “Plato’s Cave” and “Velvet”.
As an experiment, and a lengthy one, it’s hard not to get lost in this record. After a while, the sound drifts from your conscious mind to your subconscious. But hey, that’s the point of ambience. Save for a few awkward moments of glitchy spasms where things get a little frilly–mainly in the beginning of the album–Animus is a multi-faceted, polished and fine-tuned first.