Lion Music
Release date: March 24, 2004

Guitars: B
Bass: B
Percussion: C
Vocals: B
Lyrics: A
Recording Quality: A-
Originality: A
Overall Rating: B

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Germany has oftentimes produced refreshingly unique musical styles since the 1970’s: the space age, eclectic Krautrock period (bands such as Guru Guru), followed by heavily synthesized music during the Technorock phase (bands such as Kraftwerk), giving way to the no frills Heavy Metal movement (bands such as the Scorpions), and most recently a combination of the latter two with Rammstein leading the way. The genesis of another unique German style may very well be in process as exemplified by Hubi Meisel’s EmOcean.

EmOcean can best be described under a new category of Heavy Metal (that I’m going to take the liberty of throwing out into the ring today) — Mood Metal, if you will. Meisel focuses on creating a powerful, “dreamy” atmosphere in EmOcean by centering on sounds of the sea, utilizing an array of keyboard compositions, and offering lyrics designed to paint complex images that help solicit an aggressively relaxed “mood” within the listener.

EmOcean production quality is borderline perfect. The guitar sound is powerful with clear distortion, the bass guitar is well defined and discernable, and the keyboards come in great variety and are largely responsible for conveying the album’s aggressively relaxed mood. The percussion is consistent with the bass drum and high treble nicely integrated – the only minor sound imperfection comes via the mid-range skins, which could’ve/should’ve been emphasized to a greater extent…not a big deal, really, but enough to prevent the accomplishment of true sonic perfection.

As unique as the sound of this album is Meisel’s singing style. First of all, it becomes clear very quickly that Meisel has great vocal talent…he effortlessly shifts to and fro betwixt the low and high octaves without missing a note. The merits of his vocal style, however, are a different story. Meisel’s lyrics are some of the most cerebral and studied that I’ve ever encountered in Rock ‘n’ Roll – in fact Meisel’s biography boasts about how many hours he spent researching Mythology, Atlantis, and other mysteries of the sea prior to drafting his story line and lyrics. His fact-finding efforts are clearly evident and successful throughout the album and result in very original, intricate lyrical presentation. Meisel delivers these artistic lyrics via a “dabbling” style where each word is centered, framed, and deliberately sung. Should you hear only one song from EmOcean, you’d probably think Meisel’s style is pretty innovative and interesting…the only remote parallel that compares to his style would be Lenny Wolf’s style from Kingdom Come. But when this dabbling vocal style is consistently carried through each track, it becomes old hat, somewhat annoying at times, and loses its initial enjoyable impact.

Meisel assembled an impressive cast of musicians to record EmOcean: Marcel Coenen from Sun Caged on guitar; Jean Affonco from Absolute on bass guitar; Daniel Flores from Mind’s Eye on drums, and Shadrane’s Vivien Lalu on keyboards. Each musician’s style is evident throughout the album, and Meisel doesn’t appear to ask any of them to play out of character…the result being four definitive musical styles contributing their piece and meshing together somewhat seamlessly. There’s a ton of effects that add to the ocean ambiance and mood; from simple sounds like waves crashing on a shoreline, to more complex effects like effervescent (bubbly) water, thunder, dolphin sonics, seagull squawks, and maybe even pelican calls. In the end, although Meisel uses Heavy Metal as the foundation for EmOcean, this album could definitely be utilized as a late night sedative by any avid Heavy Metal fan that refuses to completely let down his/her guard, even when the ultimate goal is to drift off to sleep (metalheadz never get their fill, you know!).

This album was originally briefly released under a different label with 12 tracks, 1 of them all instrumental. Meisel switched labels midstream to Lion Music, and has added 2 bonus tracks, both following the same underwater theme. Essentially, most of the first 11 tracks dance to the beat of Mood Metal. The final 3 tracks, though skillful, are stripped of virtually all resemblances to Heavy Metal of any sort…almost as if Meisel indeed wants his listeners to leave the EmOcean experience in a relaxed state vs. being ready to go out on the street and kick some arse!

Nonetheless, EmOcean is indeed a unique piece of work. Some may really like Meisel’s vocal delivery, some simply won’t. If you enjoy his style, or at least don’t find his vocal delivery offensive, you’ll find EmOcean is enjoyable in all other musical aspects, and a true pleasure to listen to when you’re in the mood to listen closely and become “one” with the sound. Every musical collector needs party music and, conversely, needs music to listen to in solitary. EmOcean would be a great addition to fill the latter void of any Metal fan’s musical library.


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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