DELUGE GRANDER - Oceanarium
Talk about a grandiose concept! There are bands that craft trilogies, but that would not be enough for Maryland based prog masters Deluge Grander, who are currently working on a three-level seven-album series. After two standalone albums in 2006 (August In The Urals) and 2009 (The Form Of The Good), they took a little break until the first part of said series was released in 2014 under the name Heliotians. This came as a vinyl record where every copy had a different hand-painted cover. In 2018, the third act Lunarians is supposed to come out, once again on vinyl with different hand-painted covers. The middle act is out now, and a little more grandiose. Oceanarium comes either as an eighty-minute-long CD, a digital download or a double vinyl album. If this seems as if Dan Britton, the mastermind behind Deluge Grander, isnít working enough, just know that in 2005 he released an album with prog fusion band Cerebus Effect, plus he had two other bands with which he released albums. Birds And Buildings released Bantam To Behemoth in 2008, and Multipurpose Trap in 2013. And then there is his 2010 album Inner Firmaments Decay by All Over Everywhere.
But enough name dropping for now. Letís move on to Oceanarium, recorded by the core band consisting of four members playing the typical rock instruments (keyboards, guitars, bass guitar and drums), plus a whole slew of guests that contribute diverse instruments like cello, trumpet, bass clarinet, flute, saxophone, hammered dulcimer, banjo, mandolin, violin, oboe and trombone. If that doesnít make for a rich sound, I donít know what does! There are no vocals on the album, but frankly who needs them when so much else is going on.
As in the past, Deluge Granderís music covers a whole lot of ground. They see themselves as a symphonic prog band, for lack of a better label, but if you want to dig deeper, try to imagine musicians oscillating between the gloomy, heavy atmospheres of Zeuhl (Magma, Univers Zero,...) and the whimsy of Canterbury folk prog (Hatfield And The North, National Health,...), with a healthy dose of jazz and modern classical elements added for good measure.
The songs are all between eight and fourteen minutes long (so no twenty plus minute epics as on the previous records, but still...), except for Finding a Valley in a Gray Area on a Map and Finding a Shipwreck in a Valley in an Ocean, but those two shorties are actually two parts of one song that had to be split in order to fit on the vinyl record.
The opener A Numbered Rat, a High Ledge, and a Maze of Horizons is already a typical start into the sonic universe of Deluge Grander. This quartet (and their guests) are deeply rooted in the first half of the Seventies, and this busy little number of eleven and a half minutes has more happening that most bands come up within a lifetime. This makes it hard to describe the song. The reviewer would have to time the different movements, all of which never last for long, always making room for the next part. At times one might wish for the band to linger a little longer, but then their charm is their high octane to the idea of progressive rock. The following Drifting Inner Skyline Space is at eight and a half minutes one of their "shorter" tracks, and somehow reminds me from its mood of what Peter Hammill did on his In Camera album. There is an all-embracing gothic darkness, and somewhere in the middle of the track is a bass melody that wonít leave your memory any time soon.
I could go on describing each and every track, but as there is so much happening here, I think I leave it to the listener to paint their own mental image. I can assure you though that every time you listen to Oceanarium, you will discover new subtle details.
The only little drawback is the slightly muddled production. I can imagine that it is hard to record an album with so many musicians, especially if you do it DIY on your own label without a big budget to finance it. And although a more transparent sound would have been welcome, the musiciansí genius and the songsí incredible variety plus the ultra-rich instrumentation will make you soon forget this little detail. As it is, Oceanarium is another exceptional addition to the canon of Deluge Grander and Dan Britton. In times where a lot of progressive rock is stagnating, these guys show that there is good music to be discovered. I am looking forward already to Lunarians and I hope that it will be released soon.