Cosmic World Mother has been the hardest record to wrap my head around in quite some time. There are days when the late-1990s fervour of dense, complex symphonic black metal really tickle me… but then there are those where it feels over-produced and inauthentic. Which is really a shame, because this first full-length in over a decade proves Finnish outfit …and Oceans still has something to offer – I’m just not, even after six weeks of listening to the record, quite sure what that is. Even the addition of Finntroll frontman Mathias Lillmåns on vocals doesn’t bring quite the fresh start to the lineup that could have been expected.

Don’t get me wrong, Cosmic World Mother is not a bad record – on the contrary, it is well crafted, shows some really great musicianship and even throws in a few surprises – but it is not a record I find myself wanting to engage with long-term, as it feels like a throwback to Spiritual Black Dimensions-era Dimmu Borgir (especially on “As the After Becomes the Before”). A double shame, actually, as this style of symphonic bombast was being peddled by …and Oceans a year before (on their 1998 full-length, The Dynamic Gallery of Thoughts) the Norwegian powerhouse latched onto the idea! As a result, my attention drifts and I find myself being distracted instead of experiencing that wonderful edge-of-seat tension that new music should bring.

The B-side of the album, from the title track onwards, does offer a little more than recycled concepts, starting with some peculiar electronics. The darkwave-meets-gothic atmosphere this endows is surprising, to say the least – and a welcome change in pace that diffuses lingering derivative echoes. The entire tone of the record shifts here, becoming more cinematic and narrative than the first half offers. Embracing the postmodern and trying new directions is hardly new ground for …and Oceans, though, as their 2001 avant-garde, quasi-industrial record A.M.G.O.D clearly demonstrated. Even this pioneering attitude, however, can’t quite save this album.

Gorgeous guitar work on “Vigilance and Atrophy” (reminiscent of Old Mans Child) or “One of Light, One of Soil,” sensitive and intelligent percussion on “Five of Swords” or even cleverly arranged, subtle keys on “Helminthiasis” all still seem a little too late; maybe the eighteen-year hiatus between albums (Cypher was released in 2002) was just too long and the fire was banked down to embers. Here’s hoping that those embers may have been rekindled and that the next release returns …and Oceans to full-fledged conflagration.

Cosmic World Mother Track Listing:

1. The Dissolution of Mind and Matter
2. Vigilance and Atrophy
3. Five of Swords
4. As the After Becomes the Before
5. Cosmic World Mother
6. Helminthiasis
7. Oscillator Epitaph
8. In Abhorrence upon Meadows
9. Apokatastasis
10. One of Light, One of Soil
11. The Flickering Lights

Run Time: 47:30
Release Date: May 8, 2020
Record Label: Season of Mist