From the Netherlands and founded eight years ago we bring you Profuna Ocean with their latest release of “In Vacuum“. Coming from the land of; windmills, tulips, cheese and wonderful river systems the Netherlands are rich in their history as well as their landscapes and beautifully kept cities but it’s also steeped rich in music as well, both traditional as well as Rock exports and Pop culture bands. With the likes of; Golden Earring, Focus, Ekseption, Brainbox, Ayreon, Sky Architect and Kingfisher Sky to name but a few of the Netherlands exported musical forces Profuna Ocean has more than plenty of home turf influences to build their sound camp from. As well as any of the other bands that either toured there or their albums landed in the laps of every teenage kid who snuck in to their older sibling’s rooms and spun smooth vinyl, blowing their fragile little minds in to oblivion and had them wanting their own copies after that mostly to avoid a sound thrashing from their older brother or sister who coveted such records. (Trust me I know!)
An eight song album that comes in at about an hour in length and only one song that drops under the five minute radar giving us the feeling of another epic journey in to wild worlds or mental images strewn across the skies waiting for answers to come to us as we absorb the sounds that emanate from our speakers and permeate our very minds all at the same time. The Netherlands were part of the Euro tours that bands did in the 60’s and 70’s et al, mostly shows in Amsterdam, Utrecht (Hi Iris!) and Rotterdam were the major places to hit for big shows and those were the more hip cities in the seventies and eighties for that matter but by the 80’s many new Pop bands were taking over the cities that were more densely populated to be able to push their wares on the then MTV Generation to which many cities in Europe had no idea what that even was then and it was still word of mouth that got bands noticed! This is why I still say to this day that bands from Europe and the UK had a different understanding about music in many ways because they didn’t have those influences that we were given in the 80’s. If you notice the evolution of music in North America over the the same evolution in Europe and the UK…. Very different yet still in the same years.
Diving in to this album we hit our first stop, “Thousand Yard Stare“, a phrase coined during the Vietnam war where when a soldier had been in country for too long he developed the thousand yard stare from peering in to the jungles and through the fields looking for the target be it; person, place or thing. But one doesn’t have to stare too hard at this track as it cracks the airwaves with a two shot on the snare drum and the whole band falls in to place and gets on with it. A standard heavier intro to segue to the acoustic chord strums of familiarity to the softened vocals that already the band has now set the mood, tones and their styling. This song calls upon the Prog recipe classical ingredients and they fill it with the tempo/timbre and start/stop accents well executed along with some well defined double bass drumming that isn’t overkill here. Double bass I love but when it’s done in short rapid fire machine gun style and not in excess, they pulled it off very well here. Vocally direct and not straying too far out of range and keeping it personal here which I thought was an interesting facet to the song. Their guitar solos are clean and gleaming the blade of the neck as they slide their way through and caress you like silken robes on your skin. The bass holds toe with the drummer here and doesn’t stray out of the pocket at all which is common and keeps the song solid. There’s some nice synthscapes in here as well that dabble throughout the song and some great guitar work near the end to compliment the song’s cascading finale before it goes in to a final round of true to form PROGgness and builds up a great crescendo to finish off on a stop note. “Awakening” has this distinct 80’s metal feel to it with its synth taps and chugging riff style and choppy vocal approach. It has a memorable and reminiscent feel to it as it glides and waves through with the Jekyll/Hyde vocals here which I’ve always admired. Where there should be a duet there but the same voice does both the forefront and background vocal creating a unique dynamic. The middle solo is short and it drops off to the heartbeat bass line as the vocals harmonize here to a slow build up then just the vocals before the song jumps back in to the songs main force as it goes through a variety of different tempos and musical styles here having you trying to keep up with all of them which was a brilliant move on their part
“Hanging in the Balance” does a smashing tribal entrance with the rolling drums as the guitars begin their ascent in to the track as we shift in to a tight fast paced movement here in a familiar 90’s Neo-Metal style as the vocals come in mid range and regales us in story. A full on driving song here for your highway mix tape that doesn’t slow down but shifts a few gears along the way with their tempo/timbre changes done quickly but makes for a the start/stops to drop in out of nowhere and adds some more spice to this track. Some reminiscent Alan Parsons harmonies in this one calls upon some 70’s inflections that provide us with some sugary vocal passages along the way. The slow down pre-mid section is iconic for the genre for this type of song as is allows a soft entrance way to hang in the balance of the song so-to-speak as the tribal drumming does the build up again as we are taking away on a epic synth lead that has command of the air about this song with layered presence along with the drumming to create a unique up and down flow to it. The song pulls back a second time and we’re graced with a gentle vocal segment and has an Abigail’s Ghost feel to it here as the instruments are subtle but very disciplined in where they need to be as the vocals carry over. The song has quite the ebb and flow sway to it as it goes form heavy to light and back again creating a lengthy unique Prog presentation of using many facets of the genre in one song. The guitars aren’t the dominant instrument here until the solo around 10:40minute mark but they provide the rough edge to the silky synths and battering drum patterns to complete the mix out very nicely. “Losing Ground” begins with a dirty guitar fuzz tone that has that desert rock feel as the band strips down to the raw push of the rock sound here with the some Peter Gunn styling guitar riffing sounds. This one also pulls back in the middle to a sweet guitar and synth refrain allowing the vocals top continue over top then the band shifts gears on us going in to a more harder edged format bringing in the synths more so and the drums battering down the gates. Caught off guard by the synth solo figuring a guitar solo would have been the lead but instead the kept the barbed wire razor sharp riffs in place while the synths said their piece. Vocally one things of the early 90’s grunge period where melodic vocals crooned over heavier music on this one to form a diverse combined styling that I found quite interesting. “Ghost” the gentle middle album acoustic ballad is traditionally and well placed on this record as its chords pick and pull at the strings then wave like the waters up to the shores of the song they sing to. Tender percussion and synthscapes fill in the background with consideration and placidity. A commendable vocal sung throughout making it an all around calm piece that adds a necessity to the album’s overall feel and adulation.
“A Beautiful Sunrise” gets back to distorted guitars and straight out the gates heavy bombs of synths and thunderous drumming. It drops down to a shuffle with some phaser pedal effects on the guitars and tight jazzy drumming as the vocals come in with some beautiful harmonies thrown in for spice and alternate tones. The verses and chorus come across as an ode to one of their influences the band has mentioned in several interviews, Porcupine Tree as it has that 90’s PT feel to it a la Stupid Dream album. The track comes complete with several tempo/timbre start/stops changes throughout filling in the Prog recipe for music just fine here. Stretchy solos and tight disciplined secondary solos that bind and wind around the track’s neck tightly straining out the notes with precision. The eight minute mark falls out in to a Dr. Who sound effects moment with a musical box being played giving it that creepy movie effect as well before the guitar comes in to accompany the musical box before it fades out and the rest of the band return to close out the song with a crashing set of electric waves as it segues in to the title track. “In Vacuum” a 1:10minute instrumental piece that trails off from the previous song and signals its end in a haze of synths in a dramatic display of fading away. “Clean Slate” has that late 70’s dirty rock guitar intro as an ode to their idols growing up or bands that have graces their hone towns growing up but it jumps in to a bouncing riff rock snapping track with the guitars taking the driver’s wheel. Like with some of the other songs on the record the vocal harmonies fill in the chorus making their sound swell even more in a very 80’s bar rock scene kind of way, at least from a North American perspective, thoughts of bands like April Wine, Chilliwack and Toto with their blended harmonies are reminiscent here. The guitar solos are soaring and fly ever so high then swoop back down to a finger picking grab at the earth beneath your feet as the song calms down to almost a crawl. Mid way shift a few times and the gears are still glistening with grease as the band takes it back a bit with a great Gilmour-esque slide solo before jumping back in to the heavier frame of the song. Bordering on Proto-Metal styles the song presents a very heavy side for its last segments as the drums double kick and tight snare snaps push harder and harder with the chugging guitars that smash everything in their way for the waves of synth attacks stain the lands. Then as the synths grace the ending of the track with some dreamy passages as the dust settles it begins to quiet down to fade away then nothing.
Profuna Ocean has two albums out now and they show no signs of slowing down and more power to them as the continue to create large epic pieces in their own unique brand of multi-faceted Prog Rock. They are a busy band in their many variations of tempo/timbre shifts but that’s part of their charm and appeal to their sounds. Looking forward to hearing more from them soon. Enjoy