Oceans of Slumber put on an amazing live performance in Chicago.
Date: Thursday, September 8, 2022
Place: Reggies (2105 South State Street; Chicago, Illinois 60616)
Ticket Price: $15 ($19.53 after fees)
Oceans of Slumber are from Houston, Texas and formed in 2011. They just released their fifth album called Starlight and Ash on July 22 through Century Media Records. The band went on the road supporting the album with “The Lighthouse East Tour.” They did 14 shows, which started in Houston on Aug. 27 and ended in Austin, Texas on Sept. 11. I actually just discovered the band a few weeks ago because of their new album after randomly seeing it online. Cammie Gilbert is the band’s singer who does a clean delivery style. Her voice is beyond amazing. After listening to their music and the new album several times I really wanted to see the songs performed live.
I don’t know too much about Oceans of Slumber since they’re so new to me. I guess they’re considered a progressive metal band that also incorporates death metal elements, like harsher vocals from other band members and instrumental stuff from that genre. Starlight and Ash seems like a more stripped down version compared to some of the band’s earlier work. It’s not really pure metal all the way through but the music is still awesome anyway. It’s hard to put a label on Oceans of Slumber. They’re an incredibly talented band. I’m not sure if they ever got to play shows or go on tour to support their fourth album Oceans of Slumber that released in September 2020 because of Covid and the pandemic. Seeing them live turned out to be a great introduction to the band for me.
The opening bands for this show are all from Chicago. I never heard of The Waterfall King or Withering Soul before but I had seen Huntsmen live and like their music. Starless (also from Chicago) were actually supposed to play on this show but they announced a few days before that they were dropping out due to Covid. Huntsmen replaced them. All the bands are active in putting out music too. The Waterfall King put out their first album Vol. 1 in August 2021. Withering Soul has four albums out, with the recent being Last Contact in September 2021. Huntsmen released their second full length album in March 2020 through Prosthetic Records called Mandala of Fear. It’s actually a double LP/CD that’s an hour and 18 minutes long. They recently put out a three song EP called The Dying Pines in April 2022.
The day of the show was also Reggies 15th anniversary. This is one of the best venues in Chicago. They get so many great bands. I think I’ve seen the most shows at Reggies compared to any other place in Chicago. They had a special event going on to celebrate the anniversary. They had some people barbecuing on the sidewalk outside the building. I guess all the food was free. People were just walking up and grabbing burgers and stuff. They were also going to have a free show with two local bands. There were a lot of people hanging out so they drew a decent crowd.
MDC were actually playing with some local hardcore/punk bands at the same time at Reggies, right next door in the small venue called the “Music Joint” where they have a bar and serve food. Oceans of Slumber played in the larger “Rock Club” area. I had seen MDC at Reggies in 2018 and it’s just not the same as their early ’80s stuff. I can’t imagine they got any better live. The energy wasn’t there anymore and Dave Dictor’s vocals and delivery style weren’t that good. Outside of a nostalgia factor I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them again. I saw Dictor setting up their merchandise area before this show and he looked kind of rough. Then again, he’s probably now in his mid-60s so what can you expect. Even today there surprisingly really aren’t many bands like MDC anymore with their politically charged lyrical content and messaging. Considering the height of the band’s run was during Ronald Reagan’s first presidential term it’s still pretty relevant music these days.
I got to Reggies at around 7:15 p.m. but the show didn’t actually start until 8. I thought it started at 7:30. There was hardly anyone there at that point. The room was pretty empty. It sucked just standing around waiting but I guess I got the times mixed up. The bands had a lot of merch set up with shirts, music and other things for sale. The local bands had t-shirts for $15. Huntsmen were selling their recent CD for $20. I wanted to pick it up but that’s more than my limit for buying a single CD unless it’s out of print or something. I spaced out and didn’t check if there were any tour shirts for Oceans of Slumber. I would have bought one. I usually try to get a tour shirt for each show I see so I was bummed I didn’t even check.
The Waterfall King played first at 8:00. They were okay. They’re a three piece band that does doom metal. The songs were pretty long and kind of sounded the same. It’s probably due to how their vocalist sings them all very similarly. The songs were in the slow, doom vein. The riffs were good. I think they did three songs. My initial thought was the group seemed pretty randomly put together. The guitarist/vocalist is this big, Filipino or Hispanic looking dude, the bass player is a chick and the drummer is a long haired, skinny guy. If you put them all in a room together you probably wouldn’t guess they’re in a band. The bass sounded pretty heavy and really good live. The singer had like a tablet or something connected to his microphone stand. I humorously thought he might be reading the lyrics to his own songs but that would be weird. It must have been for some instrumental effects or something. They also had different lighting effects on stage that were cool, like blue/purple coloring or dimmed lights. They ended their set at 8:29. The Waterfall King is a decent opener to get the crowd warmed up a bit. You have to be in a certain mood for this type of music though.
Withering Soul came on shortly after The Waterfall King at 8:49. They were pretty good. Their Facebook page describes the band as, “blackened melodic death metal.” That’s pretty much what they sounded like too. One of the guitarists had an awesome, pristine, bright red flying V guitar. It looked sick. Withering Soul felt like a European metal band in some ways. Since the band is from Chicago I’m just going to assume some of the guys are Polish. They were a bit older guys too, presumably in their 30s or early 40s.
I liked Withering Soul a lot. They’re pretty talented musicians. I listened to their recent album Last Contact a little bit before this show. Nothing stood out much but the album is good. The band sounded better live than the album though. Early on the flying V guitarist really got into the performance and was headbanging like crazy. That kind of energy made me get into the music more when seeing them live. The songs were pretty long. The drummer played really good.
The band played really well. I’m not sure how known they are but they’re good live. Withering Souls don’t do anything completely unique but it’s still quality metal. They ended at 9:21.
Huntsmen were seriously great. They were a lot better since the last time I saw them in 2019. They weren’t bad back then or anything but they have improved a lot. They added another permanent member since the last time I saw them. Aimee Bueno sings for them now too. I think before she was just a guest on a song or two. She sang way more this time around and got incorporated into all the songs. Huntsmen are another band where it’s difficult to categorize them into a certain genre and define them by that. They’re so talented and are doing so much together with their music that I’ll just say they’re a metal band. Huntsmen started playing at 9:40. The room got dark with just dim orange lights on the stage. It’s a simple thing but added a lot to the atmosphere of their show. I think they opened with “The Swallow” from Mandala of Fear. It had dual vocals with Bueno and guitarist Chris Kang that went together really nicely. It’s a pretty heavy song too. They played “The Dying Pines” from their new EP, which is a chill song mostly focused on Bueno singing. The band all sang together quietly with Bueno as the lead.
The third song they did was amazing. The song just kept escalating and getting more intense. I wish I knew the name of it. I think it was “Let the Buried Lie Forgotten” from The Dying Pines but I’m not sure. Whatever it was that song ripped live. Having Bueno in the band did add a lot to their live performance. It basically makes all their songs new again because it creates another layer to them. Her voice can be experimented with for different vocal sections throughout the songs. Huntsmen are incredibly talented and blend into that line of being actual artists with their music. You can tell they put a lot into their creative outputs.
I actually really liked how they all sang together at different points, which you don’t see many bands do. If a band does do that then it can come out sounding so cluttered and noisy. All their voices harmonized together though so it’s not like they were singing over each other. The drummer sang on parts too and did harsh vocals for some sections. Their drummer Ray Knipe is a beast. He was so good. His double bass playing added to the intensity of the songs. He’s a great drummer and fun to watch live. I think Huntsmen played around four songs. The last one they did was “Atlantic City” from American Scrap that’s another awesome song. They ended at 10:10. I actually wished they played longer because their set was really starting to hit great. I think it’s only a matter of time until the band breaks through. They make fantastic music and their live performances are super strong. The whole vibe of the band feels unique.
I guess because it was a Thursday night but there weren’t a lot of people at Reggies for this show. For most of the night the floor stayed wide open. There were probably less than 100 people there. For the first few bands it was a lot less than even that. People weren’t all seeing MDC because the Music Joint is such a small area. When I saw MDC in 2018 there was me and like maybe 15 other people. I was surprised at the small crowd for this show though. It did get a little more crowded by the time Oceans of Slumber started playing but it was still not even close to a sold out show. There were still probably less than 100 people there by the end with plenty of space to move around.
Oceans of Slumber put on an incredible performance. They were so good. They started playing at 10:30 and the next hour went by so fast. Cammie Gilbert is the star of the band. She has a beautiful voice. I was so blown away by her singing and the power behind her voice. Her performance by itself was out of this world. She was backed up strongly by the rest of the band too. There are six total members in the band that includes a keyboard player. They do have two new guitarists and a bass player since 2019, replacing three original band members from 2011. That’s a big change for a band to go through and even be able to survive to put out new albums and tour. That might kill a lot of other bands but Oceans of Slumber seems to be going strong.
Most of their set consisted of songs from the new album. Oceans of Slumber opened with “The Waters Rising,” which is the first track from Starlight and Ash. It’s a good opener for both the album and a live performance. After that they played another new one called “Hearts of Stone.” I liked this song a lot. The third one they did called “Red Forest Roads,” which is also from the new album, was one of the best songs I have ever seen performed live. It was so intense and amazing. Gilbert put everything into it, especially the second part of the song that gets more faster paced and she sings her heart out. Her singing and the band’s faster playing combined for an incredible moment. Outside of seeing Rob Halford live a few times, I can’t think of anyone who came close to her performance. Gilbert has one of the best voices in metal, rock and probably in the larger scope of music as well. She’s so amazing. Her voice just goes with the rest of the music and band’s playing so perfectly.
“Pray for Fire” from Oceans of Slumber sounded so good live. The lyrics are pretty powerful too. I liked “The Banished Heart” a lot, which is the title track from that 2018 album and is this long, epic song. It ends amazingly with Gilbert’s emotional delivery and great drumming too. They also played “A Return to the Earth Below” from their self-titled album, which is also a strong vocal performance. It’s almost haunting the way Gilbert sang the lyrics for “The Hanging Tree,” a new song they performed towards the end of their set. The part where she sings, “and the peace within me is a lie by design” hits hard and is pretty deep.
The bass player got really into the songs the whole night and kept getting the crowd to participate by clapping their hands or waving them around. The last song they did was “The Shipbuilders Son” from the new album. When they finished the crowd chanted for one more song. Oceans of Slumber ended up playing one more for an encore, which was another new song called “Salvation.” They ended at 11:33. I think the band did 10 songs in total. All the new songs from Starlight and Ash sounded fantastic in the live setting, especially because of Gilbert’s singing.
Everyone has to see this band live to experience how talented they are. Oceans of Slumber should have more exposure and be more mainstream but in a good way. They’re doing their own thing but still being authentic. I think with the direction of their new album it aligns more with that. There’s a lot of appeal to the band for metal fans and for a more general audience. You’re just left standing in awe as they play. I loved seeing them live. There’s something about the way Gilbert sings and the style of the band’s playing that creates this powerful music. She’s insanely great and I’m so glad I got to see her perform.
After the show I bought their 2020 Oceans of Slumber CD for $20. I broke my own rule of not spending that much for a CD but I wanted to support the band in some way. I wanted to pick up Starlight and Ash but they only had the vinyl version for $40. I’m glad I just discovered this band and was able to catch them live on this tour. I’m definitely gong into their back catalog and exploring all their music. I can’t wait to see them live again.