This has been quite a year for musical discovery on my part, largely stemming from the fact that a Spotify Premium membership and cheap shows are great ways to blow through chunks of vital disposable income (just kidding; don’t do that). By far one of my favorite finds was the melodic hardcore outfit Being as an Ocean, hailing from Alpine, California. Their two studio albums, which I immediately snatched up after seeing them open for Stick to Your Guns back in February, have been my gateway drug into hardcore. Endless Heights, Counterparts, Defeater and Landscapes have creeped their way into my audio diet since then.
“Being as an Ocean” doesn’t differ too much stylistically from last year’s “How We Both Wondrously Perish” and 2012’s “Dear G-d.” In just their first two albums, BAAO has built a sound that is distinctly their own and you can expect to hear more of the same on self-titled. Frontman Joel Quartuccio continues to dump every ounce of heart and soul into his screams, growls, yells and spoken word segments. Rhythm guitarist Michael McGough once again demonstrates what a terrific addition he is (having joined BAAO between “G-d” and “Perish”) by balancing Quartuccio’s aggression with his angelic clean vocals. Lead guitarist Tyler Ross, bassist Ralph Sica and drummer Connor Denis match their vocalists intensity on every note.
Where self-titled really stands out from its predecessors is in its lyrical content. While I wouldn’t call it a concept album, there are recurring themes and narratives that serve as bookends. This stuff gets pretty heavy and is significantly darker than BAAO’s previous material; it deals with domestic violence and I suspect it can be triggering to those who have firsthand experience with it. While the overall message is as hopeful as ever, it can be difficult to process.
BAAO is a Christian band and half the songs on the album deal explicitly with their religiosity. If you aren’t a religious person – I myself am a militant agnostic these days – fear not. These guys are so damned good at what they do you’ll easily look past it. For it’s on the religious songs that BAAO is at their best (funny how that works out). The vocals, lyrics and instrument playing are all in perfect sync here. “Sleeping in Sicarii” and “St. Peter” are the standouts of the album, though they don’t reach the heights of the magnificent “The Hardest Part is Forgetting Those You Swore You Would Never Forget” from “Dear G-d.”
While I would still declare their sophomore effort, “How We Both Wondrously Perish,” to be the best BAAO album, self-titled is still a breathtakingly beautiful record worthy of your attention. If you aren’t sold on hardcore, it’ll certainly get you to explore the rest of BAAO’s discography and maybe check out some of their contemporaries. BAAO is currently bouncing around the US on the Vans Warped Tour. It remains to be seen whether they will announce a headlining tour to support self-titled. I certainly hope so, because holy shit, their shows are amazing. Absolutely worth seeing if they are in your area. On the other hand, I would understand if they want some downtime; they had a busy 2014.
“Being as an Ocean” is currently out now via InVogue Records. You can listen to a full stream of it here.