Anyone who can name a prog album from the 70s that kicks off more convincingly than Eloy’s “Ocean” may speak up. I don’t expect my mailbox to overflow, since the German prog band unanimously delivered a gem with their sixth album. The album was released in 1977 and contains, just like predecessor “Dawn”, what will later become known as the classic line-up. Just for the sake of completeness, we hear vocalist/guitarist Frank Bornemann, keyboardist Detlev Schmidtchen, bassist Klaus-Peter Matziol and drummer Jürgen Rosenthal. The four of them brilliantly manage to aptly translate the meaning of the album’s concept into music on “Ocean”. It’s all about the rise and fall of the mythical island of Atlantis that sank into the sea and when you hear drummer Jürgen Rosenthal go over his roto toms you may see imaginary splashes of water flying around. Eloy is known for its spacey prog rock, but this time the ocean is the backdrop.
Eloy’s music is an abundance of woolliness, especially at that time. By the way, in case of “Ocean” I’m better off speaking of ‘floating away’, because that’s what happens to you. For 43 minutes, divided into four long songs, guitar and keyboard solos take you to all sides of the ocean, while chords and harmonies constantly derive their momentum from the great rhythm section. An awful lot is happening.
The album kicks off with Poseidon’s Creation, which opens incredibly convincingly. The themes that emerge in the intro are a combination of bombast, dynamics, virtuosity and refinement. Sparkling guitar arpeggios, booming bass guitar parts, stately strings and endlessly long drum-breaks set the tone. The song continues with tasty organ chords that culminate into a lovely guitar solo. After a few minutes you can hear singing. The accentuated way in which Bornemann pronounces his words and his not altogether melodic approach have been Eloy’s trademarks for years. A sharp change of atmosphere takes place when the keyboard solo starts and bassist Matziol goes berserk. What follows is another brilliant guitar solo. Finally, the song continues in the same vein, whereas this time a real choir determines the atmosphere. What a class-act song.
The following Incarnation Of The Logos is a lot less extravagant, but by no means less beautiful. The first piece is carried by keyboardist Detlev Schmidtchen with lots of organ and strings, while a fairly high-pitched singing Bornemann and the deep narration of Schmidtchen provide vocals. It’s another lovely bass riff that introduces the track’s sequel. A sultry keyboard-oriented piece clearly shows what Eloy stands for: making steaming prog. The latter is also strongly emphasized in Decay Of The Logos. It has the most distinctive rock input on the album, an approach that is comparable to Marillion’s, half a decade later. The play on the ARP Pro Soloist is king.
Closing Atlantis’ Agony At June 5th – 8498, 13 P.M. Gregorian Earthtime demonstrates during fifteen minutes the psychological effects Eloy can achieve on the listener. The intro requires lots of patience. It is a long ride full of spoken words, horrifying sounds and lots of soaring organ chords. When the band finally joins in, it offers some relief, but the atmosphere remains grim, terrifying and desperate. The reverberating guitar in the outro is truly brilliant.
“Ocean” is a great album that has given me pleasure for many years. Of course, it has everything to do with the music on the album, but also with the underlying concept: the mythical story. Atlantis is deemed to have been a beautiful island, a prosperous place that contained the temple of the god of the sea, Poseidon. It would have been nice if they already had a record player, back then.
© Dick van der Heijde 2022