Almost thirty years' experience behind them and yet Sweet William doesn't cease to surprise us with its music. Once again, the Germans go far beyond the scene's clichés and stereotypes with the release of "Ocean". The new album is a conceptual work that goes in depth with its title's metaphor for life. Music and lyrics focus on the existential distress of the human being, but also on its hopes and desires. As a consequence, the eighteen tracks featured here (which really fly by) encompass unsettling atmospheres and beauty reveries in near equal measure. Some times these soundscapes are provided by classic Goth Rock numbers whereas in other occasions they come to us through melancholic Cold Wave pieces or experimental electro/psychedelic passages. In fact, all the virtues that have made unique this band over the years are present here, even though modernly enhanced and showing a maturity degree to which one only can take off the hat. So, it might be argued that Sweet William proposes an open-minded back to its roots in this new episode, what also makes even more sense due to the return of the band's original drummer Marius Nagel. Sweet William's frontman and founder, Oliver Heuer (vocals, guitars, synths, programming), Frank Breuer (bass, programming) and Markus Gerlach (drums, percussion) complete the current line-up.
Breaking waves and shrieking seagulls join to classic instrumental lines in the opener "Prologue". The ouverture sets up a suitable backdrop for the album's theme while throwing the noteworthy title track, which is somewhat tuned with the Sweet William's glorious past, when the band got signed by Hyperium and Dion Fortune labels. Throbbing bass lines and driving drum thuds propel the song into a grizzling guitar scheme. Oliver covers all with his distinctive voice, which is full of depth and longing. The powerchord solos inject a healthy dose of energy into the track over its last third. With no doubt, "Ocean" is one of the winning cuts. Following "Fly Away" is rather more optimistic than its predecessor. Steady rhythms and 70's keyboard patterns lead the tune into a psychedelic vibe. As the song moves forward, some saturated riffs shatter the calm and join the delirious chorus, making up an histrionic end. One of the album crowning moments comes next. In "Insane" the assertive, hair-raising rock guitar figures and intense drumming draw the kind of apocalyptic goth rock soundscape which is so desirable for a goth rocker. Distorted vocals, majestic synths and vibrant solo parts surround the core, carrying dark and epic emotions with it. Another highlight is their awesome cover version of Joy Division's classic "New Dawn Fades". Yet deeply respectful with the original song's passion, Sweet William has turned the screw even further in its interpretation. They have incorporated some ardent string layers to the memorable rhythmical scheme, and vocals obviously seem more expressive in the absence of a lo-fi environment. So, the band has melted the old coldness through their duly polished revision. The next track "Welcome to the show" radically changes the mood. Driven by catchy electronics and rhythms, this is enjoyable dancefloor-oriented tune stretches the tension out for a moment. Then, the delicate piano ballad "Until You Sleep" slows down the tempo again and sets up a brooding ambiance. Following "Turning" comes with jangly electro-acoustic chords and pulsating bass figures. Even though the pace is fast, the song still retains the mournful feelings underneath. Oliver's whispering moans and some haunting notes from the keyboards are responsible for that. Particularly in its slowest moments, this track brings to mind some velvet rock manners that make the things even more interesting. Also remarkable is the unsettling instrumental "Tsunami". All in it seem ominous and anxiety-inducing. Synths, noises, dissonances and other computer-processed sounds, provide a threatening atmosphere. Oliver didn’t hesitate to go off in more experimental directions, changing keys unexpectedly or simply soloing his way up the neck of the guitar to produce a menacing counterpoint to the hypnotic rhythmical section. Then, "Reach Out" switches back to the groove. This tune has a certain sexy appearance thanks to its seductive cadences and gleaming strings. "Everytime and Everywhere" starts with an intense electro-rock pace. Then, the spellbinding vocals carry the characteristic dream-like vibe. Following that path we find "Silence", "Last Restart" and "Ground". All of them are elegant hybrids of processed beats and finest chords, ensembled in minimalistic structures that take the listener into warm reveries. From time to time, names like The Beauty Of Gemina or Depeche Mode come to mind. Next, "Over" leaves behind the experimentation and focusses on dynamism once more. Crafty guitar hooks, addictive rhythms and catchy chorus are the main subjects in this track, which is another peak in the repertoire. Also crucial point is the following cut: "A Walk Down To The Sea". Evocative and thrilling, this piece is what we might describe as psychonautic ballad. Only a handful of sweeping synths, magnetic rhythms and astral simulations, are sufficient to produce a darky warm enveloping. Acoustic strings, gloomy bass chords and harsh-like voice imbue the tune with an exciting bluesy feel. Imagine Johnny Cash singing a Nephilim's prog classic and you will know what I'm talking about. As a sequel, "The End of the World" seems to give a misty-eyed stare over the ambiguous repertoire. Its windswept melodies leave both the uprooting and the hope floating in the air. Existential conflicts and doubts are as never-ending as the ocean is supposed to be. So, this song is a perfect golden clasp for the album (or maybe should we say that it's a beginning?)
Review by Billyphobia