by Joe Mis
– Senior Columnist —
Midnight Rising is the fourth progressive metal release from the trio that calls themselves Oceans of Night. This Scott Mosher led project blends melodic progressive rock with heavy metal, and delivers it with a bit of theatrical flair.
Oceans of Night is driven by multi-instrumentalist Scott Mosher, who contributes guitars, keys, and bass. The band’s blend of progressive metal, melodic hard rock, and ambient music has been around since their 2006 debut album Deep Horizon, continuing through The Shadowheart Mirror (2009) and Domain (2011). Mosher is joined by singer Scott Oliva (Live After Death, The Nightmare Stage, Wind Wraith, Inner Strength, Last Vision Black and Driven) – a very strong vocalist with a flexible delivery. At times he’ll remind the listener of Racer X’s Jeff Martin or Queensryche’s Geoff Tate. He has a fairly wide range and keeps within it well, never over-singing, and his delivery is clear and understandable. Alan Smithee, new to the band, contributes some excellent drum work. The album was well mixed by Joey Vera (Armored Saint, Fates Warning, and features guest appearances by keyboardist Vivien Lalu (Lalu, Shadrane, Hubi Meisel), guitarist Chris Rifkin (EF5/F5, Eye of the Storm) and singer Stephanie Warren.
“The Haunted Mind” rolls out first on flowing guitar riffs and is carried by strong vocals. Mosher’s guitar work is stellar, and his keys are ever-present but not overbearing. Moody keys open “Midnight Rising,” but it rapidly becomes a mid tempo rocker in the Pretty Maids vein. “Critical Mass / The Breathless Sleep” is an interesting instrumental, definitely bringing in the ambient and atmospheric elements that Mosher favors, and flows from intense to peaceful – giving him a chance to really show his chops. Oliva turns in a superb vocal performance on the mixed tempo “The Burning Sky,” a track with many layers of keys and guitars, and a great drum line courtesy of Alan Smithlee. This near nine-minute epic, perhaps more than any other track, captures the essence of Oceans of Night. “Crashing Down” is a gritty near-power metal tune – sounding remarkably like a cross between Brainstorm and Queensryche.
“Gone Forever” is an introspective, bouncy rock tune with a strong but simple rhythm line and a tidy guitar break – a nice contrast to some of the more complex pieces on the album. It is a bit on the long side though, clocking in at 10:02. Keys, drums, and vocals drive “This Is Who We Are” – a radio-friendly track with a bit of commercial flair, while “A World Born of Fire” is a brutally heavy instrumental rife with crunchy riffs and pounding drums. The very progressive “Wherever You Are” has vocalist Oliva working the top of his range, channeling Ray Alder of Fates Warning fame – in fact this track could be handed off as is to Fates. Guest Stephanie Warren lends her smooth voice to the pop-metal “Reach Me” – a track with a radically different sound and tone.
On the whole, Midnight Rising is a very good release. Oceans of Night does a credible job of blending genres and contrasting styles. The opposing forces of dark and light, keys and guitars, aggression and flow, and beat and melody are all handled well without being over the top. If there is one weak spot it is simply this – there is just a bit too much of a sense of control. There should be one track here on which these monster musicians turn things up to the proverbial 11 and really cut loose. Scott Mosher has built a top-notch band in Oceans of Night, and this album is highly recommended for fans of progressive metal.
Genre: Progressive Metal
Scott Mosher (guitars, bass, keyboards)
Scott Oliva (vocals)
Alan Smithee (drums)
Guest Musicians: Vivien Lalu (keyboard solos on 1, 2, 8, 9 ); Chris Rifkin (guitar solos on 4); Stephanie Warren (vocals on 9 )
1. The Haunted Mind
2. Midnight Rising
3. Critical Mass / The Breathless Sleep
4. The Burning Sky
5. Crashing Down
6. Gone Forever
7. Is This Who We Are
8. A World Born of Fire
9. Wherever You Are
10. Reach Me
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10