There’s no question that 2016 was an exhilarating and exhausting year for Houston’s progressive metal rockers, Oceans of Slumber.
The band’s critically acclaimed album Winter, featuring the dynamic vocals of Cammie Gilbert, was named one of the best albums of 2016 and graced the pages and covers of local publications. Late last year, the band hit the road with Ne Obliviscaris and Enslaved for an epic 34-date European tour, winning over audiences across the pond. Now, sans jet lag, Gilbert and drummer Dobber Beverly, guitarists Anthony Contreras and Sean Gary, bassist Keegan Kelly and keyboardist Uaeb Yelsaeb are preparing to head into the studio to record their highly anticipated sophomore album.
In the meantime, Houston fans can hear Oceans of Slumber perform a homecoming of sorts on Valentine’s Day at Scout Bar, along with District 97, Anova Skyway, in support of Pain of Salvation, whose wrenching, deeply emotional take on metal resonates strongly with Oceans of Slumber.
While the aforementioned European tour certainly expanded the band’s growing and international fan base, the punishing itinerary had its challenges.
“What we learned is that we are not 20 years old anymore,” laughs Beverly, who—for the record—looks 20 years younger than however old he is. “But it was a good experience...it’s like another notch in the belt.”
Gilbert, who is among a slowly growing number of female metal singers and musicians, shared that many cities had a large women fan base. “In Romania, we played the Rockstadt Extreme Fest, and there were a lot of metal women in the audience," Gilbert says. "They were there on their own, really engaged and really, really excited. It was probably the biggest concentration of women at one of our shows.”
Other performances included a Paris show near the Bataclan Theatre, the same venue where 90 music fans were killed in the November 2015 terrorist attack. Despite (or maybe because of) the heightened presence of French military throughout the area, the band initially found the atmosphere unnerving.
“The concierge was like, ‘It’s fine. There hasn’t been any incidents for a week!’” says Gilbert, who was impressed by the resilience of the Paris community. “It brought me comfort to see how regular people got on with their day. The kids are still going to school, acting up on the corner...they’re not scared, so I don’t have to be scared.”
The band also saw how European metal fans, like their U.S. brothers and sisters, are profoundly connected to the music, whether it was audiences weeping in Spain and Italy to noticing cultural signifiers like T-shirts and tattoos.
“There’s a value to the stereotypical things,” says Gilbert. “Like wearing black or having long hair, because you can spot each other. Those things are very significant within metal culture, and made it so comfortable while being so far from home.”
Now back in Texas, with over half of the new album committed to tape, Oceans of Slumber continue to channel personal, rather than political, inspiration for music and lyrics.
“It’s stronger and a lot meaner,” says Beverly about the new music. Indeed, the pounding grooves and intricate rhythms of the new material sound like something Igor Stravinsky might have composed had he formed a metal band to play The Rite of Spring. But as with everything Oceans of Slumber plays, musical complexity is there to serve the emotional center of a song
“These songs are pulled largely from the struggles of our personal lives,” says Gilbert. “There are deep and painful details that encompass everyone in their day lives. We like to give life to these often overlooked and stuffed away emotions.”
Pain of Salvation, Oceans of Slumber, District 97 and Anova Skyway
Feb 14 at 7. $15–18. Scout Bar, 18307 Egret Bay Blvd. 281-335-0002. scoutbar.com