Right now, the preconceptions about Being As An Ocean are probably just as well-known as the band itself. They may have started as just another emotional hardcore band (albeit one on the receiving end of considerably more acclaim and critical push than others), but that quickly spiralled into a band buckling under the weight of their own delusions of grandeur. That reached a fever pitch with 2017’s Waiting For Morning To Come, in which anything even remotely likable about them had been stripped away for pretentious naval-gazing and a turn into post-rock that couldn’t have been more ill-advised. It definitely felt indicative of a band moving away from their label and stepping out as an independent entity, looking to be more experimental and carve out a new identity away from one that – like a lot of that brand of hardcore – was in very real danger of becoming stale before long. Still, just because it’s explainable doesn’t mean that Waiting For Morning To Come deserved a pass, and that seems to be acknowledged by yet another shift in direction for PROXY: An A.N.I.M.O Story.
But on the other hand, that doesn’t automatically mean that something good will be produced here either. This is definitely better than its predecessor, but it’s hard not to see how vigorously and unsuitably Being As An Ocean are trying to shove themselves into the current alternative climate, originating as a creative, emotionally heady and heavy hardcore band to one looking to blatantly emulate the success of Bring Me The Horizon and others of their ilk who’ve found success through widescreen, synthesised arena-rock. But where amo had ambition and creative malleability, PROXY sets a firm cap at oversized bombast with little else around it, and there’s not much that can be achieved from just that alone.
On the plus side, it’s at least nice to see that Being As An Ocean have pretty much scrapped the unnecessary fluff that plagued Waiting For Morning To Come, now changing their focus to far more conventional but appealing song structures on the whole. It’s also interesting to see how prevalent clean vocals are now, almost exclusively to fully reach a level of melodic metal footing that they’re clearly looking to capitalise on. And there’s definitely things to like from that; for one, Joel Quartuccio has the sort of voice that can manage on an album like this, particularly in his low end on a track like Play Pretend that meshes really well with the sleek, darkened production underneath. On the whole, it feels like Being As An Ocean could reasonably pull something like this off; they’ve certainly got the melodic capabilities on the likes of Brave and Tragedy, and leaning into a sense of tension that could benefit Quartuccio’s performance here could see them reasonably assimilate with the likes of Bring Me The Horizon.
PROXY is not the album to do that, however, and while there are undoubtedly positives to be pulled from it, this is a pretty standard example of a band not knowing how to correctly use the resources and styles placed in front of them, and coming out with an album that has the modernity factor with nothing else to make use of it. Say what you like about the direction that Bring Me The Horizon have taken, but they’ve at least kept their rock foundations intact in a way that leaves so many more options open for how they can build on them; Being As An Ocean, meanwhile, have effectively paved over everything they once had, and with a blank slate comes an attempt to chase those contemporary sounds that gutted by a lack of anything to anchor it down. The production can definitely be criticised for drawing far too heavily on darker pop tones that have precious little to balance themselves out, but when that follows through even further to unwieldy, crashing drums on most of the choruses here to simulate some form of drama and bombast, not only does it rarely connect with what’s around it but it doesn’t sound appealing in any context. As for that greater focus on production itself, when it has some guitars fed through it like the heavier Play Pretend or the scuzzy Papa Roach riff of B.O.Y, it works well enough, but there’s not real consistency to keep it going, especially with experiments that rarely seem to pay off like the airy, whistling drop on Brave, or the hip-hop and R&B influences on Tragedy and Demon that just seem to have been plucked wholesale from The Weeknd.
And with regards to the writing, it couldn’t be more clear how much Being An As Ocean are vying for that mainstream crossover, as they’ve now done a complete 180 from pretentious nonsense to the most whitebread, flavourless mush lifted straight from the modern metal playbook with zero concessions made. Play Pretend is fine as far as uncomplicated, all-encompassing anthems go, but saccharine ballads like Brave and Skin lack so much of a human presence to them in just how painfully generic they are, while B.O.Y and Low Life (Ode To The Underworld) just go the whole hog in their rising up against nebulous societal and mental ills with the distinct stench of modern metalcore’s lack of imagination. Even with Being As An Ocean’s most incomprehensibly overwrought material, there was a hint of effort that suggested creativity was actually a factor; here, they’ve fallen just in line, pulled off whatever counts as crossover alternative to the most minimal degree and thrown all the corresponding lyrical beats in.
Even with all of that though, PROXY is still better than Waiting For Morning To Come; at least there’s a competently-formed idea here that can execute it without thoroughly wasting time. That’s about it though, and while this is far from being truly terrible, Being As An Ocean have made an album that’s so nondescript in its conforming to the zeitgeist that it’s barely worth putting in the effort to get through it. It could already afford to be shaved back by at least couple of tracks, but even that probably wouldn’t be enough to rescue an album whose benchmark rests somewhere about average more than anything else. There’s a seed of an idea here that Being As An Ocean were clearly trying to cultivate and grow into their big, mainstream rock breakthrough, but all that seems to have happened is they’ve inadvertently ended up on the the level of 90% of others who’ve tried that exact tactic.
For fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, The Word Alive, Papa Roach
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘PROXY: An A.N.I.M.O Story’ by Being As An Ocean is released on 13th September.