Album Review: SEA IN THE SKY Everything All At Once
The archetype of the metalhead has changed. Or rather, no longer exists. In the 80's and 90's you may be justified in classifying metalheads as angst and anger-fueled, long haired males head to toe in black. But nowadays, the majority of our community can no longer be pinned down to such stereotypes. Over the decades, the parameters of metal has expanded and therefore so has the fanbase. The metallic gates have opened to let in the fusion of electronic, pop, rock, and more, a process which forced many metalheads to broaden their horizon towards emerging subgenres.
The reason for this intro is to combat any naysayers of the following band and album in regards to their validity within the definition of metal. I am fully aware that upon one's initial listen, Sea in the Sky sound quite distant from the heavy qualities of metal. Of course, this isn't Slayer or Cattle Decapitation. But, there are metallic traits contained in here that fit at home with other 21st century alternative, prog metal acts. I can fully understand if metalheads aren't on board with this style of music, but I believe Sea in the Sky shares many subtle similarities with the likes of high profile bands in the metal community like Dance Gavin Dance, CHON, and The Contortionist. I could imagine some crossover appeal to fans of heavy post-rock/metal acts like Pelican or Intronaut as well.
The Bay Area based band began back in 2012 as an instrumental act with musicians Cameron Stucky, Johan Guerra, Rodney Dudum, and Daniel Larsen. After releasing material throughout the following years, Sea in the Sky threw vocalist Sam Kohl and guitarist Jakob Bray (now minus Stucky) into the lineup. As I arrive at their newest full-length album, Everything All At Once, I felt it important to gloss through their previous releases and came to the conclusion that the group has gradually transitioned towards a more commercial sound, while still holding tight to their proggy roots.
"Dreamer" lays all of Sea in the Sky's cards out on the table. The slightly, sludgy distorted tone commands the song forward quirky, clean melodies and prog-driven passages. While the first half of the piece has some predictability in structure, the latter half feels more flowy and experimental. Such eccentricity of form carries on to "Pale Blue Dot," which resembles a battle between the opposing guitar and vocal melodies. Although both are catchy, they never exactly sync up. Normally this would result in messiness, but the group pull it off quite well.
As the music aspect comes off impressively, my focus began to narrow down on the lyrical content, which generally felt quite somber and self-critical. Memorable verses that stood out in my memory include "I'm crying for an early grave" from "Not Too Tall, Not Too Cool" or "there's no helping hands when you're digging nails deep" from "An Appeal to Emotion." Even though some of the lyrics may seem dramatic, Kohl does a fine job at phrasing the lyrics to fit the song. Lastly, the closing title track has likely the most catchy vocal flow on this LP. It's strange, but I feel this piece best represents what the band has to offer in terms of diversity.
To repeat, I have no intent in turning every single metalhead onto this band. Sea in the Sky's musical identity is aimed towards fans of post-rock, prog, indie, and sludge. If zero of those subgenres are within your interest, I am quite certain this group won't align with your tastes. However, if you do belong to the demographic of the styles aforementioned, this album is definitely worthy of delving into as there is impeccable creativity presented. Everything All At Once ultimately has a strong understanding of songwriting with a unique twist.