When Oceansize christened themselves back at the start of the third millennium, they didn’t just pick a name, they set themselves a challenge. Their mission statement was to make the biggest music possible, adventures on the high seas of future-rock giganticism that could never, ever stop. It also meant that every album they made would have to be even bigger, heavier, than the last one.
With Chris Sheldon-produced third set ‘Frames’, they’ve easily surpassed themselves on that challenge. But first, there were a few different challenges to overcome. Over two albums, 2003’s grandiloquent ‘Effloresce’ and the dark and moody ‘Everyone Into Position’, Manchester’s kings of post-metal had succeeded squarely on their own terms, but by 2006 they found themselves at a new crossroads. For their next trick, they would become a band refreshed.
With a revised line-up and a renewed sense of purpose came a new home. After a successful two-album relationship with Beggars Banquet, Oceansize have moved on to Superball, a new imprint created in their honour, and with a mandate to sign up like-minded bands from all over Europe. “I think the changes have come at the right time,” explains Mike. “There’s a lot riding on a band’s second album, but to have these important changes come at such a crucial time, it’s really given us a new lease of life.”
Fans of early ‘Size will be delighted. Two of the band’s most delicate moments led them to an untold new audience: ‘Music For A Nurse’ cropping up on the Orange fish adverts, and ‘Meredith’ soundtracking US drama The OC, the temptation might have been to leave behind the hard stuff altogether. That hasn’t happened.
As Mike explains; “the biggest difference between the last one and this one was that with ‘Everyone Into Position’, subconsciously we were making the bid for airplay and trying to make things a little bit simpler. Not commercial, but more melodic. There was more of a focus on anthems and melody – this time we were like “to hell with that!”
Indeed, ‘Frames’ glows with the bonecrushing experimentation, mixing, erm, ultimate warrior wrestling music with beautiful classical flourishes. Oceansize always weaved magic out of unfamiliar time signatures. This time, they have so many of them going on at the same time that Vennart says the album is, at times, “the sound of a band ignoring itself.” Evidenced on the lurching ‘Savant’ and the ravenous ‘Only Twin’ and the climactic ‘The Frame’, every single player goes on their own journey, making up a deeply intricate whole.
‘Sleeping Dogs and Dead Lions’, fact fans, contains the longest instance of the word ‘c***’ ever recorded, while 3 songs feature guest strings from Semay Woo of The Earlies.
‘Frames’, make no mistake, is a snapshot of a band revived, renewed and at the very peak of their powers. Which just leaves Oceansize with one more challenge: how on Earth can they possibly hope to get bigger than this?