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Now calling themselves Havoc Unit to honour the band's evolution into a techno sound, though perhaps primarily to stop annoying fans of their earlier releases by incrementally eliminating all traces of metal, the first album of Finland's '...And Oceans' is their only predominantly black metal release, before the experimentation of the excellent follow-up paved the way for the band's decline (from a metal point of view, of course). While it's reasonable to note this as a less novel or fascinating album than 'The Symmetry of I - The Circle of O,' 'The Dynamic Gallery of Thoughts' is still an excellent album of melodic black metal based around grand, sweeping keyboards and the generation and perpetuation of a specific mood, in places falling into the mountain/triumph metal style of Windir and Summoning (I might as well invent categories, everyone else seems to do it around these guys), but practically managing to re-invent its sound with every track.
Each song is repetitive within itself, typical of many black metal bands even when they aren't striving for the hypnotic trances of Burzum, and it's easy to get swept pleasantly into the soundscape, assuming you're cosily familiar around clinically relentless blast beats and rasping black metal vocals. Personally, I find them as soothing as a mother's lullaby, but that's enough about my dubious psychology, it's Anzhaar's majestic keyboards that are really the dominant force in this album. They generally fall into the sweeping Windir/Summoning style in pleasant and successful contrast to the gritty foundations of the roaring guitar, bass and drums, but as the album continues, the keys become enjoyably prone to excess: the epic 'Je Te Connais Beau Masque' begins with world music ambience in the style of Vangelis and end as a dominant grand piano, with a bit of regal organ in the middle. The less impressive follow-up that oddly happens to be the exact same length, but uses it to less effect, features a lead keyboard section that harks back to Jean-Michel Jarre and all that seventies new age crap, but that's fine because I do love that crap sometimes, especially when incorporated so well into black metal.
The rest of the band might not have the same presence or effectiveness, but the album is still full of great riffs from guitarists Neptune and de Monde if you listen out for them, again most effectively in the fourth song. The screaming Finn calling himself K-2T4-S (not pretentious at all, then) succeeds in moving between accents in the differing languages of the lyrics, which is an odd and interesting feature to observe in a black metal scream, and the third song unleashes some Burzum-style pained shrieks in case the more mechanical aspects of the rhythm section were leaving some listeners feeling a little cold and detached. Bear in mind though, this is a guy who calls himself K-2T4-S and thinks he's some kind of cyborg from the future. There's even a slight hint of a female opera singer near the start of track six just to keep things interesting, though the shifting speeds and various interludes were already doing a damn fine job of keeping everyone on their toes.
Even with the hints of restlessness and experimentation that would result in radically different discography hereafter, this is still an entirely black metal album, though not in the purest root form of the genre, and maybe not one to please those with a taste for harder, brain-crunching stuff like Behemoth. Fans of black metal's lighter, epicer and more expressive side should find a lot to enjoy, and should be enough to incite an interest in where their sound went from there. Be wary.
2. The Room of Thousand Arts
3. Som Öppna Böcker
4. Je Te Connais Beau Masque
5. Mikrobotik Fields / Ur Lldrig Saga Och Slng
6. Samtal Med Tankar - Halo of Words
7. September (När Hjärtat Blöder)
8. Kärsimyksien Vaaleat Kädet
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Room Of Thousand Arts
3 Som Oppna Bocker
4 Je Te Connais Beau Masque
5 Mikribotik Fields/Ur Aldrig Saga Och Sang
6 Samtal Med Tankar
7 September (Nar Hjartat Bloder)
8 Karsimyksien Vaaleat Kadet