Greek power Ocean of Grief hit somber note with sullen doom and death on icy ‘Pale Existence’

Very soon, the sunshine will return on a more regular basis, and the daylight will last longer each day as the warmer weather rules the land again. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have time to squeeze a few final dark drops of despair and agony out of the months that most heavily impact those with mental health conditions. We can wallow a little more before the sun warms our faces.

Therefore, it remains the ideal time to welcome “Pale Existence,” the second full-length effort from Greek melodic doom/death power Ocean of Grief. Seven songs stretch over 47 minutes, and it’s perfect fodder for grasping the waning days of darkness before more hopeful times are on the horizon. The band—vocalist Charalabos Oikonomopoulos, guitarists Filippos Koliopanos and Dimitra Zarkadoula, bassist Giannis Koskinas, keyboardist Aris Nikoleris, drummer Thomas Motsios—floods the senses with glacially played, gothically driven heaviness that weighs on you both physically and mentally and provides a chance to bask in the despair with some like-minded forces.

“Poetry for the Dead” begins with orchestral synth before the guitars flood and the growls punish, elegant destruction riding along the path. The playing surges as the drums rouse spirits, the guitars scorch, sounds glaze, and darkness unfurls and blocks the sun. “Dale of Haunted Shades” is murky when it opens as growls stretch their sinewy arms, steam rising and darkening the mood. Guitars soar and then liquify, proggy keys make the hairs on your arms stand, and the pressure increases before the melodies melt into a mist. “Unspoken Actions” glimmers and the growls engorge, bludgeoning but also swimming into dreamier terrain. The bassline engulfs the mind, the haze thickens, and then energy bursts out of that, erupting and gushing. Colors explode, vitality pulses, and everything disappears.

“Imprisoned Between Worlds” trickles in, almost from the ash of the previous track, and the growls mash as the misery rises like a fog. Momentum builds as guitars emerge, and the emotions get heavier, becoming dangerously somber. Growls lash as the playing mars, bleeding into the dark. “Cryptic Constellations” is even heavier and more foreboding, mystical waters cooling down the temperature. Thrashing emerges as the keys give off a strange vibe, guitars swelter and melt, and things spiral as the growls sink teeth into muscle. “Pale Wisdom” begins reflectively before the power explodes, and the vocals ravage the senses, settling into the mists. Leads go off as the bass takes control, guitars slice open veins, and the playing unites with glowing strings before fading out. Closer “Undeserving” brings burning guitars, an even slower pace, and heavy sorrow as the synth gathers into clouds. The coldness expands as the guitars impact your mind, the playing strikes, and the momentum pounds and sinks into dirt.

The despair is thick and alluring on “Pale Existence,” another entry into the gloomier sections of doom metal’s rich terrain. Ocean of Grief have a stranglehold on this style, and every drop of this record you can feel deep in your gut, eating away at you. This is a record that’s not here to mask your pain or hide your sadness; it’s here to enhance those things and make the trials more manageable.

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