The art of an energy blast – a review of …And Oceans’ “As in Gardens, so in Tombs”

Author Silvia Tortiglione - 28.11.2022

Two years after the long-awaited, and we could say mammoth, “Cosmic World Mother”, the Finns …And Oceans do not stop shining. “As in Gardens, so in Tombs” confirms the balance achieved with the previous opus, and manages to do much more. Symphonic black metal unfolds flawlessly, between refined and never-bulky orchestrations, and a sharp sound that embraces innovative solutions.

Silence, enters equilibrium. The title track “As in Gardens, so in Tombs” is a symmetrical hurricane. The lyrics, perfectly balanced in the lexical choice, respond to a sound architecture of reprises and intervals. An electrical pause becomes a vortex. Pure harmony between compositional levels, as in scores, so in words.

We have always and always will be a part of the circle of eternal energy; we have always existed and will always exist in some form. A notion that became ever so clear when reading up on different religions, worldviews, customs, and philosophies.

– Mathias Lillmåns

The piece that follows is what I could define as a novel-song or a song with a strong narrative structure. And it’s surprising how the vocal lines of “The Collector and His Construct” are able to handle the complexity of the instrumental base, which can be catchy in the best sense of the term: I’m talking about freedom in creativity, on the part of the artists, which results in a biblical stupefaction for the listeners. As in plasure, so in pain.

A game of shapes, even stronger in “Within Fire and Crystal”, a journey in lightness, a journey in stone-made orchestrations. And it must be added that this time Antti Simonen has transformed the keyboards in a moment of rare lucidity: that silvery touch is the album’s leitmotif, but it is not spoiled by the too-common baroque of the genre. A prime example is in “Carried on Lead Wings”.

Is it possible for two guitars, in this case in the hands of jugglers Timo Kontio and Teemu Saari, to evoke ice and enchantment at the same time? It sure looks like it. This is the element that moves “Likt Törnen Genom Kött” and “Samlarens Valv” (the latter one part of the two bonus tracks) onto a different line. These are two apparently very different pieces, but I have decided to combine them, both for their linguistic peculiarity and for the powerful basting of reverbs and references. Here, the sound moves away from perception, becomes wind, the orchestrations branch out, and a certain intimacy reigns in the vocals.

Returning to the order of the tracklist, it’s time for “Wine into Water”, anticipated by a solemn movement, which continues uninterrupted in the execution, thanks also to the small but distinctive electronic nuances. Distinctive electronic overtones frame the arrival of “Inverse Magnification Matrix” too, perhaps the real core of the album. Now, the flow of energy, that is the basis of songwriting, is felt. That mass of particles that runs from one body to another, from one dimension to another, and together tend towards the light. As in abyss, so in heaven.“Inverse Magnification Matrix” then summarizes what I anticipated at the beginning: the art of balance. Pyry Hanski rides the depths of Kauko Kuusisalo, the bass gallops together with the drums, and nothing is left to chance; the minuteness of the chorus can be glimpsed, Mathias Lillmåns seems to know perfectly where to stop and give space to the wordless.

“The Earth Canvas” and the subsequent “Ambivalent God” prepare the closure of the opus. The tones fade, and the score turns to technical know-how, reaching an ethereal stage. It must be said: as in gardens, so in tombs, and … And Oceans can handle both situations. “Pale constructor, wordless communicator” we hear in “Ambivalent God” and the band proves to be composed of interpreters of sound and words, and of the path that travels between these two realities. To close the album, we have a single piano key, a solitary note, primitive and apocalyptic.

In conclusion, “As in Gardens, so in Tombs” has a well-calibrated level design. The videogame metaphor is a must. We’re talking about a work of plans, structures, actions and reactions that has no flaws, and still manages to dare with creativity. Literally the contrary of an average work. Even the smallest details have a peculiar shape different from the others.

“As in Gardens, so in Tombs” is made of ten tracks, plus two bonuses:

  1. As in Gardens, so in Tombs (4:17)
  2. The Collector and His Construct (4:36)
  3. Within Fire and Crystal (5:52)
  4. Carried on Lead Wings (5:14)
  5. Likt Törnen Genom Kött (5:10)
  6. Cloud Heads (4:19)
  7. Wine into Water (3:57)
  8. Inverse Magnification Matrix (4:50)
  9. The Earth Canvas (4:11)
  10. Ambivalent God (7:44)
  11. Samlarens Valv (3:49)
  12. Third Eye Catalyst (4:28)