Band – Oceans of Slumber
Album – Oceans of Slumber
Country of Origin – USA
Genre – Progressive Metal
Release Date – September 4, 2020
Label – Century Media Records
Author – Hayduke X
I’ve been sitting on this one for quite awhile for a couple of reasons. First, it always takes me a long time to transcribe an interview. Second, as this is so far from what I normally review, I’m a little unsure of what to say. Nevertheless, here we go.
Oceans of Slumber is an Alternative Metal and/or Progressive Metal band that hails from Houston, Texas. This self-titled album is their fourth full length release along with an EP and a variety of singles. The album features eleven original tracks plus a Type O Negative cover and has a whopping seventy-one and a half minute run time.
The band features Cammie Gilbert (vocals), Jessie Santos (guitar, backing vocals), Alexander Lucian (guitar, backing vocals), Semir Ozerkan (bass, guitar), Dobber (drums, piano/synths), and Mat Aleman (keyboard). Their style relies heavily on emotion over technicality, which is not to say they don’t have instrumental chops. It’s clear from the pristine mix that all the musicians can really play.
To me, what really set the band apart from the pack at first was the vocals of Cammie Gilbert. Her powerful cleans give me goosebumps with every listen and probably have more similarity to the Soul powerhouses of the past and present than a typical metal band. If you need proof, press play on this compelling cover of Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit.
What has been wonderful is, even though it was Cammie’s vocals that drew me in, it’s the entire package that keeps bringing me back, and making this album one of my most listened to this year, on a playlist stuffed full of black metal, death metal, and grindcore. The band plays with a subtle touch, allowing the compositions to breathe, and yet can really hammer you as well. Though the influence of other (non-metal) genres is clearly present throughout, this is a metal album. The darkness paired with the moments of raw destruction lock that fact firmly in place.
Oceans of Slumber (the album) is my introduction to Oceans of Slumber (the band), but they are now firmly on my radar. I will leave you here to listen for yourself. After hitting play, jump below the video to read my in-depth interview with vocalist Cammie Gilbert.
Hayduke X: The new self-titled album is coming out on September 4th on Century Media. I can confirm after hearing the review copy of it, that it’s really excellent. I love it, but I’m really new to the band. Where do you think it stands in the bigger picture of your body of work?
Cammie Gilbert: I think is definitely a paramount album. We’ve really found our stride and feel confident in what we arranged. We have a new lineup that feels more cohesive than ever before. There’s a new energy, a new pace, a new earnestness to what we’ve created. We’re quite proud of it and we feel very confident in it.
HX: As you should. It sounds like a very mature composition. When I was researching for the interview, one of the things I stumbled on was your cover of Strange Fruit. Can you tell me why you chose to cover that song?
CG: I grew up with that song. I’ve been in love with that song for a long time. It’s so dark. It’s so emotional. It has so much depth and history to it. It’s an incredibly iconic song, especially down here in the South, that we have always felt compelled to attempt to cover it. We initially wanted it to come out during Black History Month back in February, but due to legalities and all the red tape, it ended up getting pushed back, and then released later on. It’s such a heart wrenching song. With everything that has been happening, and all of these issues that have come up to the forefront, it was like an absolute, “most certainly.” We put this out, and we stand behind this message that it sends and the importance of the history and the things that the song conveys in relation to what’s been going on. How long this thread of hurt has existed.
HX: It seems like a perfect moment for it. In a way, to me anyway, it feels like we might be at a pivotal moment in our history. With the uprising that swelled after the murder of George Floyd. It feels a little this time. What’s your sense of what’s going on right now?
CG: I agree. I think, obviously, it’s been a cycle throughout American history. Every so often, society sort of cracks and says “enough is enough.” Then you see these riots. You see these protests. You see the fires. And then you see the change. We have been complacent for a long time, allowing ‘just good enough’ to define where we were when it came to progress. With the murder of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, these things reached a peak and people were like, “good enough is not good at all.” And society broke. With the momentum of globalization and the reach of the internet, people can hold others accountable much more aggressively than they have done in the past. And with better longevity than they’ve done in the past. These changes, however subtle to however grand they are, there’s a huge demand for them to be made. I think it’s true that we’re at a place where we are going to see broader changes. I think we’ll see a lot more changes on an issue that some people claim has been long handled. You know, that just hasn’t been the case.
HX: Do you think the energy is there to continue the movement to actually bring about substantive change? Certainly in Minneapolis, I’m seeing very positive signs. The vote defund the police and so on.
CG: I hope so. I think that it’ll be more long term. There are immediate things that are going to happen, but the real impact is going to be the younger generation, what they’ve seen and what they’ve experienced now. They’re not going to let things go. They’re going to make it their life’s theme so to speak. It’s this internet age that is at such an impressionable age. They’re at a cusp where they’re moving out into adult society, or just being seen as adults. They’re like, “Well, I don’t want to go out into a world that has all of these issues. If I am, then I’m going to change them.” I think between the immediate things, the laws that can be passed, the defunding of police, the restructuring of police that can happen now, all the way until that next generation is of age to be voting and above, which is when I think we’re going to see a more lasting and long term effect of things and better things.
HX: I hope so too. Talk to me about your connection with the Black Lives Matter movement.
CG: Well, as a black woman in the South, I definitely have a first hand experience with racism, and how a society can be aggressive towards minorities and people of color. To be forthright, I support Black Lives Matter. I also understand that it’s broken down into different people and areas and actual organizations, and that it could mean different things. As far as what it takes and the coming together under that umbrella term, I fully support that. I think in order to make change, we need to acknowledge the different things that arise, because of its focus on black lives, the hardships of black people and other people of color. It’s in working together. It’s in – not necessarily being color blind or saying that everybody gets along – that we can actually make these changes.
HX: What has your experience been, specifically in the world of metal, as a black woman?
CG: I feel like it’s been interesting. Online and in real life have been two different things. I think, at first, people don’t know what to expect when they see us. That can kind of lead to a lack of interest. Writing us off or categorizing us in a way that isn’t really accurate, or doesn’t really pan out. That’s kind of ambiguous and kind of hard to mark, but it’s based on different feedback that you get from putting yourself out there. Online, pretty much everything we’ve posted has had a handful of racial slurs put on it. That sentiment definitely is an underlying thread to what we do.
HX: Has there been anything that’s been really blatant that you’ve experienced, in terms of racism, with the band?
CG: Just online. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have had that dynamic in real life, but it’s also true that people are way more brazen online than in real life. And if they’re coming to our show, they know we’re there in some capacity or other, whether we’re headlining or not. I’d hate to think that they’d show up ready to act crazy.
HX: Do you think that’s heightened because, as the vocalist, you’re the visible face of the band?
CG: Yeah. Absolutely! I think that, if I were a male, and the guitar player, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal, as it is because I’m the lead singer.
HX: So, the band is from Houston, pretty far into the South. I guess you’ve said most issues have been online, so I don’t know if you can tell this, but have you had different issues in different regions? I know historically, racism was maybe more blatant in the South and more of an undercurrent in the North, but still very much present.
CG: I think at this point, it’s kind of equally everywhere. But at the same time, where there are more rural towns, is where you run into more blatant racism, more violent and aggressive tensions between certain groups of people. It’s just that the South is far more rural. In Texas, you have Austin, Dallas, and Houston, and then everything in between is like something out of a movie. You can drive and drive and there’s nothing. Just these tiny little towns. I think that has more to do with it, with all the variables that come with rural areas, versus more city or urban areas.
HX: Interesting. Yeah, I can see that. I know in Michigan where we are based, Detroit and Grand Rapids, and so on – within the cities, certainly more politically left, progressive – not that racism doesn’t exist within the cities too. It certainly does, but there’s just more support for combatting it, I guess.
So, as members of a larger metal scene, whether you’re in a band, or, in my case, a journalist, or a fan, do you have any advice as to what we can be doing to combat racism specifically in the scene?
CG: I feel like it’s speaking up to one another, whether you’re black, white, or whatever. If you see something, question each other, challenge each other’s ideals and beliefs and perspectives. It’s like, if someone is willing to make that kind of scene, then they need to be willing to accept that they may be challenged. I feel like the age of, “Well, I don’t do that, but if they do, I’m not going to say anything.” doesn’t really fly. It only makes them worse. It only makes you worse. It only makes it worse for the person that they’re going against. There’s nothing to be gained from being passive towards wrong actions around you. We all, if something like that is allowed to prevail – whether it be someone being unkind or contentious at shows or not holding their police departments accountable. It’s speaking up to one another and not being tolerant of behavior like that. It’s incredibly insidious and it’s incredibly dangerous, like if it’s someone in power, and nobody is stopping him from acting that way, I feel like it’s worse.
HX: In the last couple of months, I’ve been seeing more activism in the music scene, more bands speaking up, more fans speaking up. But I’m also seeing that backlash. People, fans especially, saying, “Keep politics out of my music. I don’t want to hear about politics.” Anything you’d like to say to those folks?
CG: I feel like that’s such an immature, superficial way to look at music. Politics are a part of our lifestyle. Nobody exists outside of the reach of politics having something to do with how they can live. As an adult, as a mature person, I feel like you need to be incredibly political. It’s not like religion. I’m not going to convert you to being a liberal or a Republican or something. Politics means the laws that govern your life, the laws that govern what you’re allowed to do, where you stand on those, and how you make sure that those aren’t going to go in a way that’s detrimental to you or anyone else. As artists, the things that are around you are what shape what your music is. I mean, what do you want them talking about? Just things that you care about? Just happy-go-lucky stuff? To just speak about ill will in some sort of general diluted way? If you want conscientious music, if you want intelligent artists, then don’t try to censor or polic what topics are off limits for them. I don’t understand that sentiment at all. Where does anyone get off telling an artist what music they should make, or to “keep politics out of it.” What if I was a Poli Sci major or something? What if I was a lawyer on top of everything else that I did? I’m not allowed to talk about it? I feel like that’s just a very immature listener, a very immature music goer. Some of the biggest bands, some of the most prominent historical figures throughout music have been incredibly political. It’s what music is for. To change people’s minds. To change people’s hearts. To express to them in these gentle, easy-to-engage-with ways, about these much heavier issues, whether it be emotional, or political, or societal, or whatever. Music lasts longer than laws. Music lasts forever. Why would you think that?
HX: Absolutely. And that’s why a cover of Strange Fruit is so pertinent and so powerful. It’s unfortunate that it is, because it shows that issues of race haven’t been handled yet. That’s just one example of why it’s important to include politics in music, I guess.
CG: Yeah, absolutely.
HX: So, at MoshPitNation right now, I’m really purposely trying to shine a light on bands that are being more vocal in their music, and also bands that are made up of people of color or include people of color, those in the LGBTQ community, etc. Do you have any bands that you’re aware of that need some light shone on them in that direction?
CG: It’s been incredible. I feel like there have been so many bands that I didn’t know about, that when I was tagged in other posts with them, that’s also how I was turned onto their music. I know Militia Vox. I feel like her projects and her contributions as a black woman in music could be more spoken to. Someone like King’s X, even though they’re not around anymore, I can personally attest to his feelings of being a person of color, that he felt held him back.
HX: Your vocal style is pretty distinct for metal. It maybe takes more cues from other styles, Soul and R&B and so on. How does that affect the music you perform? What kind of vocal training have you had?
CG: I didn’t have any formal training until last year. I grew up in a very musical family. My dad was a choir director. My mom was in choir. He was a musician. We had a studio in our house. My mom sang all the time. She was a schoolteacher, but music was incorporated into everything she did. I was probably formally trained by him, but as a kid it was just what we did. We’d play games where I’d follow a piano or mimic something he did on the guitar. But it was all for games or it was just singing along to things. So I had that informal practice. I was in choir throughout school too, so I guess I can’t say I had no formal training. I had no one on one formal training with a coach, but I definitely went through a structure that allowed me to work on my voice and be taught.
Obviously I didn’ learn to sing from listening to metal music, or I’d be a lot better at growls than I am now. But I definitely see an emotional thread that ties all of these different genres together. For me, it’s like I’m looking for a mood and a vibe and a feeling. If it speaks to that, then I don’t really care what genre it is. There are a few different artists and how they sing – it was Chris Cornell – there’s this rawness and realness to a voice like that. You can put him over any music, though it obviously fit better with his own music, with that rock aesthetic. Then, that started to bleed into my mind that my voice could transfer to other genres. I would say his voice is very soulful. It showed me that I could start to cross over and merge it. When I met Dobber (Beverly), he obviously had the same idea. He’s helped to kind of marry the two in a perfect way. It’s that underlying heaviness, that underlying depth of emotion that I feel is where the connection is.
HX: Are you the lyricist as well?
CG: Yeah. For the most part.
HX: What are some of the most meaningful lyrics on the album for you?
CG: I would say, To The Seas and The Colors of Grace. Lyrically, those are some of the heaviest for me. But, this whole album came together lyrically in a way that I’m happy with, as far as expressing something internal, but also making it externally accessible. Where, at the beginning, it was maybe about some issue that I was having, but in the end was expanded out to something that everyone can relate to. These songs about grief and these elements of great depression always stand out. We always find a way to include those things on our albums, so those two songs tackle those darker issues.
HX: One line that really spoke to me was from Pray For Fire. The line is “Now they pray for forgiveness, while I pray for fire.” What was in your mind when you were writing that?
CG: Dobber and I collaborated on that song. It was like, under all of this persecution, under all of this oppression, you have these people who act they want to be saved or need to be saved. It was like, if they’re praying for rain, then the ones that they are oppressing are praying for fire. It’s like, if you’re on top and you’re the ones setting the way that things are, and you want this salvation, it’s like, well, if we can’t get it too, then no one gets it. It’s a pretty angry and aggressive song, and it was written to kind of represent the metalhead, and how I feel like alternative people are kind of seen as this other, and are demonic or satanic. And so, the imagery of it all is quite satanic. It has all of these, sort of, religious themes, but it applies to anyone who has been oppressed. It’s like, you want this. You want your forgiveness, but you haven’t earned it or done anything for it. So, being fireproof, so to speak, we pray for flames.
HX: Do you have any last thoughts you want to share?
CG: I hope everyone is staying safe and being patient with themselves. What may have seemed like it was going to be a short period of time has turned into a whole year of craziness. Look for us online. We’re always there. All of our social media doors are always open. Don’t be afraid to hit us up and reach out.
HX: Thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
CG: Thank you!
Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. Beginning in 2018, he also began writing for VM Metal Underground. Prior to joining the MoshPitNation team, Hayduke published reviews on his own blog Rage and Frustration. In addition, he has DJ’ed an online metal radio show of the same name as his blog, written for TOmetal.com, done interviews for Metal Rules, and collaborated with The Art of B Productions to create video interviews with a wide variety of bands.