Being as an Ocean Keep Things Angsty

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.

‘White Pony,’ 15 Years After the Fact

I think I might be breaking some rules of Deftones fandom when I say that “White Pony” isn’t my favorite album from Sacramento’s Finest Sons. That distinction goes to “Diamond Eyes,” which turned five in May (Yay for landmarks! Even tiny ones!). But even though I was pretty damned late to the party – my first Deftones song was “Diamond Eyes’” haunting title track, heard on a long but scenic commute to some thankless internship – I certainly can’t deny the groundbreaking importance of “White Pony.”

This was the record that enabled Deftones to break away from the nu metal pack they emerged from in the 90s and basically put them on track to becoming the artsy, alternative metal outfit that they are today. It’s the first record to feature keyboard player/sampler Frank Delgado as a full-time member. It’s the first time frontman Chino Moreno started playing guitar on certain tracks, which he still does today. The songs themselves continue to hold up, with the slight exception of “Back to School (Mini Maggit),” which still feels like it has one foot rooted in the decadent nu metal past. Other than that, the “Pony” is still a beast. “Feiticeira,” “Digital Bath,” “Rx Queen,” “Street Carp,” “Korea,” “Change (In the House of Flies),” and “Pink Maggit” are all as awesome now as they were 15 years ago.

Of course I would be remiss not to mention their famous collaboration with the Toolman himself, Maynard James Keenan: “Passenger,” my all time favorite duet in music.

So if you got some time today, throw on some “White Pony” to celebrate the 15 years of continuing excellence from Deftones. I’ll be seeing them in concert come August, where they will be co-headlining with Incubus (see the full tour dates here). Their still untitled eighth studio album will be dropping in late September. Check out the music video to “Change” embedded above. If you can get past the dodgy compositing and Chino’s questionable haircut, it’s still pretty cool.

Rise Against, Killswitch Engage and letlive. Make for a Seriously Whack Tour Bill

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Okay, so Rise Against, a band I have no fondness for, and letlive. kind of make sense together, due largely to their shared punk roots. The head-scratcher here is Killswitch Engage being the bridge between these acts. Let me make it clear that I am in no way opposed to the prospect of seeing KSE live; it’s just strange that the most potent gateway metal band of the last decade will be… touring with Rise Against and letlive.

However, this tour will be making a stop at The Masonic in San Francisco on Aug. 11 and that brings two things to my mind: there are precious few shows that I’m actually interested in seeing that come through these parts and I positively adore KSE. Maybe a little less so these past couple years (I was Team Howard), but they are absolutely a band I would drop everything to go see live (which I’ve not yet had the opportunity to do so), regardless if they are the headliner or an opener. They are second from the top of this bill, so they will probably get a decently long set. I will be content.

As for letlive., I’m fairly ambivalent towards their music (your mileage will vary) but I often hear great stuff about their shows, which tend to skirt on the crazy side. Take, for instance, this episode at The Tabernacle in Atlanta last year, in which frontman Jason Butler, feeling that the audience members on the balcony could benefit from his presence, decided to just climb up a wall and join them.

For the record, I would be okay with something like this happening at The Masonic.

Tragically, Aug. 11 falls on a Tuesday, which is by nature the most chaotic day of the week. I will most certainly try to make this happen, but it’s hard to say at this point. My love of KSE and the lure of whatever shenanigans letlive. might unleash more than makes up for my…indifference to Rise Against.

If you are so inclined, the full tour dates can be found here.