…And Oceans Rise Anew (Jakobstad Chronicles Pt. Drei, Vier, Grenadier)
See, I told you it wouldn’t take long. We’re making yet another dive into the story of Havoc Unit, …And Oceans, Festerday and the people, bands and projects that surrounded them.
The three heroes of ours wander no more. One is missing and the lines are broken. The fires of nine years devastated the forest floor, but did not reveal stone, nor dirt. Ashes of the old world lay on a tablet of purest, most beautiful, sacred concrete. But it would soon prove that the new world of calculation, of machines, hedonistic perfection and hyper-capitalistic existence, were far less stable than the Brave New Visions of Alduous Huxley. But before we dive into dystopic depths, you may want to revisit parts Un & Deux.
It has been said that Havoc Unit is what became of …And Oceans, and that much is mostly true. But not everyone who had stood within their ranks chose to soldier on. Guitarist Syphon and original keyboardist Anzhaar/Plasmaar/Anti (have I adequately groused about the complexity of remembering these ever-revolving stage names and the new ego’s and selves they’re meant to represent? I dare not guess the implications of Anzhaar at some point seemingly adopting the moniker K-2T4-S, previously held by Kena) both elected to step down, and instead of auditioning a replacement for either, it was decided Sami Latva, henceforth sa.mye and Timo Kontio, reborn under the guise of t.kunz, would share between them all duties that could be seen as belonging to either “string” or “percussive” instruments, and with this swift stroke of internal reassignment, Mika Aalto became hein.rich, the man behind the keys.
In their last will and testament, …And Oceans left Havoc Unit only the most chaotic and crushing material. After walking the full circle and being born anew born under the eyes of the law as Kim, Kena’s mental landscape had by then completed its blooming urbanization. Everything had been covered in concrete, the natural world suffocated. Suffocating industrial landscapes, unrelenting rhythmic barrages and brutally heavy riffs reflect the same imagery, giving no quarter throughout their admittedly short discography. The pulsating, danceable synths and disco fever that most usually consider anything known as industrial metal shine with their absence as noisy electronics, Red Room-esque backwards speaking and samples taking their place. This was no metal grown from the industrial music scene, this was music of a world that only ever knew the fires of industry.
By the time …And Oceans’ final album, Cypher, rolled around, the band had abandoned every identifying feature of their former selves, and while, perhaps, the transformation unto Havoc Unit was not as radical, much of that remaining influence had been obfuscated ‘neath the exaggerated, dominant remnants. The beat-centric riffing and electronics are among those exaggerated remnants, the beats and rhythms more chaotic and wild, at times almost competing between instruments and the electronics that now fill every crack on the vile face of the dry soundscape. Their sound was only further mechanized and more disturbing in both the use and selection of its sounds and samples. The repetitive, structural simplicity of Cypher had been abandoned in favour of a freer flow and sudden, volatile outbursts.
What then became of the rest of the …And Oceans estate? Surely its condition was not as poor as to be unsalvageable apart from its harshest mannerisms contained in the sturdiest chambers? If you were to ask these questions of any stranger in charge of telling this… tale, fable, thing, you would likely be met with the words “Right you are”, unless you were being told the tale by a complete dolt who had no clue as to the true nature of things they were pretending to be knowledgeable about. They would only be trying to amuse you and desperate to sate your curiosity in hope of being provided a stack of hay in a dirty barn to sleep on a cold night like this, and a bowl of thin broth, if they are particularly daring. And what do we call people who pretend to knowledgeable of things they aren’t? That’s right, hosers. Sorry, posers. And what do we do to posers around here? Right again, the same we do to the poor, the beggars and the dolts. TO THE AXE WITH THE LOT OF THEM.
If, on the other hand, he (or she) were to meet you with the correct Power Words of Enlightened Knowingment to Grant Legitimacy for He Who Is Speaking, the tale would likely follow along these lines. An unspecified amount of former …And Oceans associates of unspecified identities, leaving the answer to the question whether they were part of its last incarnation, or some earlier unspecified one, formed The Sin:Decay to distribute the other half of …And Oceans’ legacy, according to its will. They formed an easy-listening, or light-industrial metal group whose melodic, synth-heavy approach was similar to Deathstars with hints of Paradise Lost from around One Second, Host, Believe In Nothing and Symbol of Life. The mellow groove of the opener “We Are All Slaves” comes close to late-era The Kovenant, but the naivete of their melodies breathes the likes of Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode without the genius of either, and the vocals rely on an effect-laden spoken word approach. The same is true of the remainder of the six songs and 23-minutes that make up the entirety of The Sin:Decay’s known discography. Rehabilitation offers not as much a look into …And Oceans legacy as it does into an alternate course of development that emphasized the importance of simple, catchy and memorable hooks in songs that delighted in their candor. The closing number, “C76i8k76” can be seen as an attempt to reach the distance between the halves of …And Oceans remaining musical legacy.
Havoc Unit’s career began with a series of splits: 7″‘s with And Then You Die, featuring an Autopsy cover, and …And Oceans, featuring a new piece from the latter. it was a taste of things to come from the former, as well as a CD that featured the same new songs, and also two remixes from each band’s catalog. (I must admit no other versions of these songs besides the remixes seems to exist. The CD, Synaesthesia – The Requiem Reveries, also featured choice cuts from The Sin:Decay’s sole EP.)
The culmination point of that career came on a February day, more than twelve years ago, when h.IV+ (Hoarse Industrial Viremia) was released. The conceptual reflection of Kim’s mental state and landscape had become guiding visions of a perfectly mechanized Megacity-world, where nature as we have come to know it no longer existed, replaced by machinery and concrete. But this was not the only objective h.IV+ had. Its secondary (though who can say, which idea, which vision, was the primary driving force behind the record, or if either truly was) objective was to be a “terror assault on world taboos”, and though the music was fertile soil (as poor a choice of words that may be) for this vision, this was emphasized by the lyrics. Dealing with and inspired by the absolute worst and most extreme of humanity’s fringes, pedophilia, incest, terrorism, rape and religiously and racially motivated massacres can be found within its covers.
The weight of their own extremity would quickly prove too much for the group to bear, and soon they dissolved, never to be heard from again. They seemed convinced that there could be no continuation without the reversal of the streams, that Havoc Unit’s second coming could only be the polar opposite of its first. And so it would not materialize—could not materialize—within the confines of Havoc Unit’s concept, the unbendable (this Ain’t Space Pilot 3000*) frames of its existence. Ironically (or not, depending on how alike your and Alanis Morrisette’s understanding of irony is), h.IV+ had planted the seeds (now this is an accurate choice of words) of what may have come to fruition. …And Oceans’ collaboration with In The Woods… had never materialized beyond the initial thought, but with Havoc Unit, a similar alliance was forged, as on “Ignoratio Elenchi (Reversed Genesis)”, where the group collaborated with Solefald. But while the juxtaposition of Lazare’s gorgeous vocal lines against a somewhat softened take on Havoc Unit’s rough rhythmics is one of the highlights of one of the best industrial metal records ever made, ’twas not enough to kindle a new flame that could have carried forth the men onto new battles, and in 2013 they were officially pronounced lifeless. By then, the communications with Camp Sin:Decay had ceased, and the silence had enveloped the fort once built with great enthusiasm for so long. The books of history now refer to it in hushed tones as Camp Sin:Deceased.
It could be said, and it would not fundamentally be a lie, that it all began in the larger Vaasa area. The rest is up for debate. But I’ve chosen to believe it was a particularly warm mid-winter’s day in 2013 when three men, who were once essential to out story, named their grizzled death metal band after a Carcass song. Again. And verily did they follow with haste (if you can consider half-a-decade such) on the tracks of rotten, mid-tempo and melodically punching, filthy death metal that the iihtallan’s, people who had gone insane after having spent too much time among the dead, had lain. As it often goes with things that move fast and burn bright, they moved with such haste, yet again, that after only two compilations, two splits, two EPs, a full-length and approximately six years that Festerday, as their name had been, they reached the end of their days. Again. Sort of.
During the years of inactivity that had followed h.IV+, Kim/Kena had drifted further away from black metal, and all that …And Oceans had represented in its last days. His mental landscape had reverted back towards the forests of his youth, abandoning the perfect, uniform structures of the Megacity-world. Plants sprouted through cracks of concrete, eroding the cities. Nature found a way, as it always does.*** But he had not stopped where …And Oceans began. He still listened to the old classics he had once fallen in love with (but only once a year, when the snow and cold get impenetrable) to preserve their magic. And let me tell you, it doesn’t take much choosing to believe in particularly warm mid-winter days anymore, because we’re getting neither snow nor cold around here anymore.
Death metal had become the object of his craving once more, and when by chance he was reunited with his old companions Teemu Saari and Timo Kontio, he found that with similar desires ached their loins. Over a frothy mug of ale, Saari confessed to not having kept up with his duties, laying down his guitar after his departure from …And Oceans in 2001, following their third record A.M.G.O.D. Kontio had kept busy with Magenta Harvest’s formation simultaneous to Havoc Unit’s, and its growing activity after the turn of the decade, which at that time had produced two demos, but has since produced two full-lengths as well.
Centered around a death metal sound, Magenta Harvest would liberally borrow from the thrashier end of melodeath, gently dabble in prog and carefully season the resulting stew with keys. Not quite a halfway mark between …And Oceans and Festerday, but not so far away as to escape that mental image completely. Yet, Kontio found it unfulfilling and was eager to go the distance and resurrect the rotten monstrosity of their youth, not to mention Magenta Harvest vocalist Vreth’s involvement in Finntroll, which left much spare time that could not be effectively channeled into said project.
The three men shook hands and Festerday lived. Originally Cadaveric Incubator’s Kullervo Pentele, who had had a brief stint in the band in ’91, was invited to play drums for the band, but by 2017, they had settled on a new rhythm group consisting of bassist Antti Räisälä and drummer Jari Kuoppamaa, both from Kim’s very likely (based on the recent deletion of their Bandcamp page, among other things) defunct d-beat group Khaos Nihil. Before actually getting as far as to record their full-length debut, the three men felt a different pining, as their blood drew back into black metal.
I don’t think many expected it would happen given Festerday’s activity and its members’ various other bands, projects and activities, but in 2017 it was decided that …And Oceans would rise from the ashes as well, if only to perform a few gigs, as no actual long-term plans at the moment existed. Assembling a line-up proved a much more arduous task than it had in Festerday’s case. Very little was known of drummer Martex’s whereabouts, only that he had continued to play in True Black Dawn for a while after his departure from …And Oceans’ ranks, and that he had joined Throes of Dawn some time later, but he had vanished since and all that could be gathered were rumours he had joined a squadron** of Hessian mercenaries some years prior. Latva had been recruited to one of grindcore’s best known bands, Rotten Sound, and filled his free time with family life and Coughdust, a stoner/death/sludge monstrosity in worship of the riff. So the group asked Janne Manninen, Magenta Harvest’s drummer who had made brief appearances in …And Oceans around the time of their debut demo and early aughts, but his stint proved short as MyGrain, a melodeath band of mild prog inclinations in which Manninen had made something of a name for himself, reactivated as well. A more permanent solution was found in Kauko Kuusisalo, best known as the skinsman of Gorephilia, but who had gathered experience from black metal in bands like Aegrus, Gloria Morti and True Black Dawn as well.
The role of bassist fell, at first, to Mr. Oos, but the veteran of Dynamic Galleries retired soon after and once again was replaced by Mika Aalto, who, unlike Latva, held no active side-projects and was able to find time from his main gig in Rotten Sound. But as oh so often, hunger grew while eating and …And Oceans’s level of activity began to rise, forcing him to step aside, inviting the once-guitarist Syphon, from Baptism, who, ironically (for real this time, I think) had also rejoined True Black Dawn some years earlier. Much like many of his fellows, keyboardist Anzhaar found himself eager to return at first, but unable to commit in a lasting manner, he left for Antti Simonen, the original keyboardist of Alghazanth, to enter and round out the line-up.
Amidst the rapid line-up changes that enabled this name drop masturbation …And Oceans played a few gigs, some of which yours truly had the privilege of seeing, including an appearance at Howl of Winter VI in Tallinn, Estonia, that was partially recorded, and pressed into an insanely limited 7″.**** Their setlist mostly drew from The Dynamic Gallery of Thoughts and The Symmetry of I, the Circle of O, but did not completely shy away from A.M.G.O.D either. Festerday released their debut, iihtallan, in early 2019, and soon it became time to think about the full-length continuation of …And Oceans’ career as well. At first everything went well, but sometime during home-studio sessions difficulties arose and Kim “Kena” Strömsholm, the voice of Festerday, …And Oceans and Havoc Unit, decided to quit altogether, retiring from musicianship. His reasons are not entirely clear, and while personal reasons were cited and while it was claimed he remains on friendly terms with the band, the posts did not seem to come without a certain sense of enmity.
A blow not easily recovered from, many would say. But …And Oceans had the resolve to try, and they quickly announced that Mathias Lillmåns, a good friend of the band, bassist and vocalist in the excellent crust/d-beat band Dispyt and having played in black/death bands like the Chthonian since the 90’s, would step into his shoes. The web seems tighter still, if one holds the knowledge Lillmåns is also the man behind the name Vreth (and this begs the question of Magenta Harvest’s continued existence). It has later been confirmed he’d stepped into Festerday as well, though it is not known whether the arrangement is permanent or not.
Cosmic World Mother is expected to release early this May and its first single, “The Dissolution of Mind and Matter” was released some time ago. The songs were ready and had been demoed with Kim, but Mathias wrote new lyrics regarding a concept of “energy and how energy changes”, which is about the vaguest explanation of any concept I’ve ever heard, but the man refused to divulge more. The song itself represents symphonic black metal, much like their two first albums did, but not exactly like their two first albums did. The keyboard arrangements are more restricted than before, which is surprising not only because of …And Oceans’ past but also because restraint wasn’t something Simonen’s stint in Alghazanth was known for. It warms my heart to know Lillmåns sings in at least two languages (English and Swedish) despite all the song titles being in English, and he does a fine job with his performance, even if it lacks the most ridiculous and craziest touches of their old material, but it is not given that Kim could have brought them back so many years later either (in fact, it’s almost given he couldn’t have), so I can’t hold it against him too much. What I do hold against the band a bit is the blasty nature of the single, something that was far more carefully used in the 90’s, but I also refuse to condemn Cosmic World Mother based on one, good, if not as remarkable as the fanboy in me would have wanted, song.
Visit …And Oceans on their Facebook page, or Bandcamp site, from where you can get either records or merchandise, including the “One of Light, One of Soil” t-shirt featured above.
*How does this not exist when a porn parody of fucking Jeopardy does?****
**It remains unknown why they called themselves a squadron, when they clearly were a company, and whether Martex actually joined or not. All attempts to gain interviews were rejected.
***This is bullshit and we all know it. That one scientific experiment, The Jurassic Park Trial, I think it was called, was supposed to prove that nature always finds a way, but only an illiterate person could somehow miss the fact that nature only ever prevailed because the scientists screwed up, and did not retain full control of the test habitat. If someone hadn’t MIXED THE GENE POOL FILES, LOOKING AT YOU BRIAN FROM ARCHIVES, we’d have known of the frog genes and could have used the correct samples.
****40 copies. Pressings this limited need to fucking die. Don’t release, distribute within your handpicked circle jerk of friends, if you want to be this much of a dick.
*****I was wrong. Of course it does.