To say Esprit D’Air’s sophomore album had a difficult birth would be something of an understatement. Originally beginning life in 2018 Oceans was abruptly halted when singer Kai had his laptop stolen (along with the backup files) the following year. Fast forward to 2022 and Oceans is finally released, and if ever an album was worth waiting for, then it is surely Oceans.
Into The Oceans is an expansive, instrumental opener that captures the enormity of a wide-open sea. It’s dreamlike, otherworldly and transports the listener to another dimension with a hypnotic beat that introduces themes which will echo throughout the album. Oceans could easily be construed a concept album as most of the songs relate to the sea in some way, and subsequently, it’s a record that’s best consumed in one sitting, and even with a lengthy running time (75 minutes), that’s no real hardship. Named after a mythical sea monster Leviathan fluctuates between loud and quiet passages; it is a balloon sailing towards the heavens but it’s grounded by a heavy beat and the two combine to create an interesting tension of opposites. There’s a push and pull throughout Oceans that makes for an interactive listen and demands your full attention.
To all intents and purposes Esprit D’Air is vocalist Kai. He composed all the songs and played most of the instruments. It’s always a worry when an artist takes total control of a project, as without other input an album can become one-dimensional and staid. Kai overcame this problem by collaborating with a host of artists, each of whom brings a unique flavour to Oceans. Ryo Kinoshita (from Tokyo metalcore band Crystal Lake) makes a guest appearance on The Abyss and his unearthly growl turns it into a beauteous beast that, like an anchor tied to a drowning man, drags the listener down to delirious depths. Those opposites are very much in evidence as Ryo’s snarl acts as a foil to highlight Kai’s cleaning singing and they combine very well. Likewise, Ben Christo (guitarist for gothic rock legends The Sisters Of Mercy) brings his magic to Dead Zone and gives the song an unsettling, haunted-ship, vibe.
Oceans is an album that’s constantly shapeshifting (rather like an alien life form) and Nebula flits from speaker to speaker like a shooting star that’s burning up upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s an explosive number that threatens to burn itself out on its own frenetic energy as the vocals are delivered in double quick time and the guitars are as equally fractious and this makes the ethereal keys that herald the arrival of Amethyst all the more poignant. As we reach our journey’s end a HEAVYGRINDER remix of Leviathan teases out new aspects of the song, and gives it an almost industrial feel. The penultimate Serafine features a fine vocal display from Kai who gives the song a grandiose feel which sets things up nicely for the album’s conclusion, another remix of Leviathan. This time Shirobon gives the song a warlike mix and it’s one that ensures this album will live long in the memory.
I think all the tribulations that made up the recording of Oceans actually helped shape the album’s unique aesthetic and means it stands apart as one of 2022’s best rock records.
Esprit D’Air will soon tour the United Kingdom, with shows in London, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Glasgow and Manchester.