Back when Ocean Grove first came to prominence, the expectation around them was that they’d be a significant driving force in where metal would go from then on. Evidently, that hasn’t happened, but if it’s bothered the band at all, they’ve not shown it. Right now, the perception of Ocean Grove is of a band perfectly comfortable filling in their own weird little niche, with their fluid stew of pretty much every musical touchstone from the ‘90s onwards that’s ever-evolving around a semi-nu-metal skeleton. They seldom kick up a fuss (more’s the pity, but never mind), but it’s always good to have them around to see what they’ll do next. Which comes around to Up In The Air Forever, perhaps bucking the trend in how noticeably straight-laced it can feel, but never fully abandoning the old Ocean Grove formula of mashing heaps of stuff together and seeing what sticks. In this instance, it’s a combination that isolates the most blaring moments of grunge, maximalist trappings of late-Oasis, and loose-hanging scowl of Aussie slacker-punk, all while trying to chip away some form of melody from such a wall of sound. Yes, if there’s one glaring issue to be found, it’d be in how bricked-out some of these production choices can be, especially the guitars that’ll throw their volume around for the drums to punch through, and the bass to not stand a chance. The volume-over-finesse approach is what crafts the most impenetrable ceiling for this album, as each sonic source is swept up in how calamitously loud and forward-facing this can be. On the other hand though, there’s enough a barrelling pace to imply that Ocean Grove know exactly what they’re doing, and they’ll try and make up for the lack of vibrancy with some surprisingly defined hooks among it all. Flava could do with mixing the vocals a tad more prominently, but it’s not as big of an issue on Bustin or Bored when the overall catchiness of the hooks will put in plenty of work.
Considering how high they’ve stacked their own obstacles in front of themselves, Ocean Grove fare decently well at carving out what works for them. It helps that the album is pretty brisk in length and pace to mitigate how overwhelming it potentially could be, rarely dragging its feet or buckling under its own weight. Hell, a song like HMU could probably afford to be longer, as the seedy guitar sizzle it dips into after decluttering itself it easily the album’s strongest moment musically. The same leeway can’t really be offered for anything else here, mind, such is the degree to which Ocean Grove hone in their focus to its optimum level. Had this been off-balance by even an inch more, the good will that it’s receiving now would feel a lot more dubious; that’s how skin-of-their-teeth close that Ocean Grove cut it. There’s a definite vibe trying to be cultivated through it too, of being baked and burned-out that makes the Dune Rats collaboration Bored make all the sense in the world, but where optimism and PMA prevail and send the ride of life onwards. A bit less out-there than previous Ocean Grove albums, definitely, but it’s something they can sell, with Dale Tanner’s lower register to embody their grunge leanings on Cali Sun and Bustin. In the scorching Aussie sun, it’s not hard to see how the fun would so easily fall out of this album, as Ocean Grove’s less-than-serious nature is right at home on something as blatantly vibey and mood-ready as this. Even more fittingly, it continues to contribute to the paradox that is Ocean Grove—more replayable but less readily engaging; largely catchier but in a way that forgoes a lot of instrumental detail or isolated flavour. It’s weirder than it may seem on the surface, but that’s mostly for anyone already privy to the lore of Ocean Grove. Otherwise, it’s decent enough.
For fans of: Dune Rats, 3 Colours Red, Deftones
‘Up In The Air Forever’ by Ocean Grove is released on 22nd April on UNFD.
Words by Luke Nuttall