A grinding feedback gives birth to an angst-ridden groove in “Heavy Steady Grip.” In these three songs, and the eight others that join them on the first installment of Zero Frequency’s The Ocean’s End trilogy of LPs, listeners aren’t given any other option than to strap themselves in and prepare for the hard rock juggernaut that this Ian Smith-led project has constructed in his latest release. From the howling harmony that acts as our foray into “West Coast Refrain” to the guttural guitar’s wail in “Artemis Descends,” “Disco Ball Rider” and, of course, the aptly-titled “Euphoria, Euphoria,” six-string-worshipping rock aficionados are in for quite the treat in this, Zero Frequency’s declaration of war on the mundane sounds of mainstream alternative music.
The first word that comes to mind when summarizing this collection of songs is “texture.” Even in more muted melodic numbers like “West Coast Refrain” and “Sunshine of Your Lust” (which is best described as a reworking of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”), the instruments are spelling out the mood in the music in a way that the lyrics never could on their own, and Zero Frequency carefully arranges every track here as to keep the focus always fixed on the tonality of the guitar, bass and drums. This isn’t to say that songs like “Take It Deeper,” “Disco Ball Rider” and “Death at Sea” are lacking in lyrical substance, because nothing could be further from the truth. What The Ocean’s End, Vol. 1 presents us with isn’t a one-sided look into contemporary hard rock in the form of eleven instrumentally-centric songs – it’s a demonstration of Zero Frequency’s artistic duality, and moreover, all of the treasures that it can yield when there’s nothing to stifle their sprawling style of play.
If the other two volumes in this new series of albums are anything like this first one, then the American indie underground finally has another trilogy worth celebrating in 2019. The Ocean’s End, Vol. 1 is a very engaging piece of music. Rock music has come a long way since the 60’s, but one thing that hasn’t changed is its fans long-held hunger for indulgent volume, boundless fuzz and earth-shaking bass, which are three things that this LP has in spades.