Oceanic is the second full-length album by American post-metal band ISIS, released on September 17, 2002, by Ipecac Recordings. On November 4, 2014, a remastered edition was released via Hydrahead/Ipecac Recordings.
On July 23, 2006, Isis performed Oceanic in its entirety at KOKO, Camden Town, London as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties curated Don't Look Back series. This performance was recorded and eventually released in 2009 as Live V. The track "Weight" was used in an first season in 20 episode of the 2007 television series Friday Night Lights.
The album reintroduces the water and female themes of past releases the Red Sea and Celestial through a story: A man at the brink of emotional numbness finds a female counterpart who completes him ("The Beginning and the End"). However, he soon finds that she has had a long-term incestuous relationship ("False Light", "Weight") with her brother ("Hym", "The Other"). This drives him to lose all hope, and he commits suicide through drowning ("from sinking sands, he stepped into light's embrace").
The entire story is described by frontman Aaron Turner in a radio interview and in more nebulous terms in the album's booklet.
Its style marks a distinct departure from their previous sound; up until this point, Isis had been characterised by crushing, distorted guitars and a coarse, unforgiving tone. With this album came the introduction of lengthy periods of clean guitar, large amounts of ambient noise and female vocals; a notable post-rock influence, first hinted at on SGNL>05 and Celestial. This transition was retrospectively labelled by FACT's Robin Jahdi as "one of the more eye-opening musical metamorphoses of the decade"; it has been described as "seminal". As Ben Richardson notes in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the album's release "fomented an explosion of glacial, Neurosis-inspired instrumental 'post-metal'"; likewise it has been described as "the standard by which all post-metal albums have been judged since". It has retrospectively been labelled a "masterpiece".
As one reviewer notes, the album is in "a place somewhere between metal and hardcore and post-rock, a place where crunching guitars and hoarse, tuneless vocals and slow spaciness all converge and create something big and mean and delightful". The change of style proved trying for some long-standing fans, but beneficial in garnering a greater fanbase and the Neurosis-Godflesh comparisons began to weaken. The eschewing of sludgecore elements, and increased focus on atmospherics and post-rock elements whilst still retaining metal and hardcore elements led to the album being labelled by many as post-metal, and essentially as being the genre's progenitor. Some critics attribute it to having truly formed the genre, out of a previously nebulous definition. This leaning, in the direction of post-rock, was greeted with great critical acclaim; the presence of female vocals proved popular with many reviewers, and songs featuring those vocals are generally seen as stand-outs. Those songs include "The Beginning and the End", "Carry" and "Weight", all of which feature Maria Christopher of 27.
Oceanic was named Terrorizer's number one album of 2002, and in Drowned in Sound's "Our 66" introspective of the best albums of the past six years, it placed fifth. Pitchfork Media ranked it as 2002's 31st-best record, rating it as having “more depth than its touted predecessor”. It was greeted with great critical acclaim from not only niche magazines, but also from popular music reviewers, such as Allmusic. In some ways, this release pushed Isis to the fore of their genre, and enabled them to branch out to new fans. Beyond yearly accolades, it ranked fourth in Decibel's "Top 100 Albums of the Decade" special issue.
Some fans and critics will point out that the album had a notable influence on the metal/post-rock scene in the years following. In 2004, Cult of Luna released Salvation; taking a similar stylistic departure from previous LPs Cult of Luna and The Beyond as Oceanic took from preceding albums SGNL>05 and Celestial. The band itself cites Isis as an influence, and a review in Terrorizer posits that Oceanic covered "fairly similar aquatic terrain" as their release Salvation.
The album was remixed in a series of four vinyl EPs, named Oceanic Remixes/Interpretations Volumes I-IV and released on Robotic Empire Records in 2004 and 2005. Contributors included Mike Patton, Venetian Snares and Justin Broadrick. These tracks, and an additional track by Tim Hecker, were compiled into a two-CD release on Hydra Head Records, entitled Oceanic: Remixes & Reinterpretations.
All tracks written by Isis.