Take a deep dive into half a billion years of Earth's history with German prog masters The Ocean when they bring their new album, 'Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic', to Australia for Progfest next month.
“The Phanerozoic is the eon we currently live in. It started 500 million years ago after the end of the Precambrian and it still carries on until now,” band founder and songwriter Robin Staps explains.
“The whole concept of the album, which is divided into three parts, is an Earth history along the geological timescale. The Phanerozoic [eon] is sub-divided into three eras – the Palaeozoic, which is the subtitle of the first record, and then the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic, and those two will be released sometime in 2020 as a single record but in two parts.”
The first volume alone covers some 289 million years of life on planet Earth, starting when hard-shelled animals first appeared and finishing with a mass extinction event in which up to 95 per cent of marine life disappeared referred to as 'The Great Dying', which is also the final track of the record.
Far from a literal geological recount, Robin says the concept provides a convenient analogical framework for the album to explore more personal themes. “It's going through Earth's history, the lyrics however are very personal and mostly make reference to this in a metaphorical sense,” he says.
“This is something we've always done, where our previous record 'Pelagial' was a journey from the surface of the sea to the depths of the deep sea; we also approached the lyrics not singing about deep sea creatures but as an analogical journey from the surface of the human mind into the abyss of the human psyche. We always have this meta-level to the lyrics, and that's the case here again.”
The Ocean prepare for their Australian shows as part of the Progfest tenth anniversary line-up for 2019 alongside British rockers Monuments and Indian-American outfit Skyharbor. “We are super excited to come back there,” Robin says.
“Our past two Australian tours have been really good. We were there in 2012 and 2015, and it's been a total blast so it's good to come back now with a bigger show basically. We're playing a festival in three cities – that's exactly what we wanted to do and we've heard great things about Progfest.”
The Ocean will also be playing Progfest sideshows in Perth and Adelaide, and Robin says the quality and success of Perth's prog scene has not escaped his notice, with two of his favourite bands – Karnivool and Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving – hailing from WA's capital city.
“It makes sense because there's not so much distraction from people and when somebody does something it spills over very quickly and infects people with the desire to start bands, and it takes off from there. Perth seems to be a case like that – a large mound of very cool bands coming from an isolated city.”
The Ocean play Progfest sideshows at Badlands Bar (Perth) 24 January and Jive (Adelaide) 25 January.
Progfest 2019 Tour
Sat 26 Jan - The Croxton Bandroom (Melbourne) Sun 27 Jan - The Factory Theatre (Sydney) Mon 28 Jan - The Valley Drive In/The Brightside (Brisbane)