Being As An Ocean - How We Both Wondrously Perish
Record Label: Invogue Records
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Being As An Ocean formed in Alpine, California in 2011 and released their debut album Dear G-d… on Invogue Records in 2012. Their sound is notable for spoken word segments from frontman and screamer Joel Quartuccio, who often uses religious and humanitarian themes to make the band’s songs revolve around moral discussion. Their instrumentation is referred to as melodic hardcore, which relies on intricate guitar melodies and aggressive music. The core of Being As An Ocean’s music is the writing of guitarist Tyler Ross, who composed their entire first album. While involving screaming and sharp, distorted chords, Being As An Ocean often drifts into contemplative and introspective territory, bordering on ambient music at times.
Being As An Ocean’s second album, How We Both Wondrously Perish, showcases some interesting changes. The most apparent of these being that the band recruited a new guitarist and clean vocalist – Michael McGough from The Elijah. While Quartuccio originally handled spoken word, screamed, and clean vocals on the band’s first release, McGough now takes over clean vocals and does a wonderful job of it. The band’s songwriting is also different this time around; while the guitars are still very artistic and intricate, they do step back from the spotlight every now and again to let rhythms shine a little brighter.
Album opener “Mediocre Shakespeare,” sets things off with a driving, urgent force behind it. Quartuccio’s screams are both decipherable and empathic, as he examines his own pity party, “We either fight or flee, which one’s it gonna be?” The second song, “Death’s Great Black Wing Scrapes The Air,” opens with a moody guitar line and mellow keyboard pattern. The track erupts as colossal guitar chords and Quartuccio command a new direction. The song ends with a somber spoken word outro by Quartuccio.
Track three, “L’exquisite Doleur” means ‘the exquisite pain’ in French. Musically it is dynamic, featuring keyboards and experimental guitar riffs, but the lyrics are basically the theme song to being friend-zoned and whining about it. It’s nauseatingly beta, as Quartuccio pleas for the love of a woman, “You just can’t see all that you are to me. I just want to know your story, so I may love you complete.” It is the band’s first misstep in my opinion.
Number four, the title track, is a short instrumental that revolves around reversed guitar chords and an aural atmosphere. A distant, delayed drum kit adds a downbeat, relaxed tone to the interlude. This is an enjoyable, artistic song.
The fifth song, “The Poets Cry For More,” is a song about rebuilding yourself after a dissolved love. While Being As An Ocean’s lyrics are intended to sound spiritual and transcendent, on this track they just seem too wordy to connect, “Led into the wilderness by some radiant lover, just to be left in the cold.” Number six, “We Drag The Dead On Leashes,” is more rhythmic than others, featuring a pumping chorus and concise drumming. The track’s chorus involves a distant synthesizer panned across the speakers, and Michael McGough is given plenty of time to belt it out. But Quartuccio still tries to sound too deep on this track, melodramatically comparing insecurities to “battling demons,” while sounding like an impersonation of Dan Smith from Listener.
Number seven, “Even The Dead Have Their Tasks,” is a song about missing your family and friends. Quartuccio’s heart is, as always, in the right place, but he words it with too much self-indulgence, “I’m drowning in a sea. Again I’m pulled back into deep waters, washed further from my sisters and brothers.” Musically, however, the band is on point and enjoyable. Eight, “Grace, Teach Us What We Lack,” is more ambient, and McGough opens the track smoothly. The song evolves into a faster tempo, and Quartuccio discusses the nature of conviction and judgment in modern religion. Track nine, “Mothers,” is an emotional song as Quartuccio addresses his mother’s grace and her eventual death from cancer. Quartuccio’s diction is simpler, bringing out a more authentic feel to the content. This track features a tasteful bit of trumpet, which goes a long way in my book.
The last song, “Natures,” is very ambient. It opens with Quartuccio’s vocoded voice, gently building layers of synth pads and bells, culminating in a reverb-laden beat with pounding cymbal crashes. The song begins to fade and ambient noises are replaced by a muted piano outro, ending the album on a thoughtful note.
Ultimately, How We Both Wondrously Perish is a good record with good intentions. It’s musically distinct in an intelligent and enjoyable way, and has some thoughtful moments. It’s recurring downfall, however, is Quartuccio's tendency to try seem deep by using wordy hyperboles. How We Both Wondrously Perish is an improvement over the band’s first album.