Reviewed by Rob Acocella
NOTES! Lots of notes, and really fast! New Jersey native John Kiernan is further proof that there must be something in the water in this state that makes people excellent musicians. [Note: I am NOT talking about Bruce or Jon]
NJ is famous for local music heroes that either achieve cult status within our own little bubble, or go on to more impressive national success. Some of our local guys like Metal Mike Chlasciak, Steve Bello, or Angel Vivaldi are very well known for their instrumental Metal guitar playing. Enter John Kiernan, who can be added to the list of the aforementioned players, with influences from other artists that merge with his own taste in every riff. If you're looking for a fast-paced but not overly self-indulgent example of some top-shelf guitar playing, then you need to check out Of Oceans.
The production quality on this is incredible, and it's very rare to hear local or indie artists with this level of production. The drums absolutely boom with every hit and the layers of guitar are tastefully arranged. There's just enough complexity to set it aside from your run-of-the-mill songwriting, but not enough where it becomes pretentious.
The album starts off with "The Hit," which is a song that evolves as you go deeper into it. It starts sounding like something early Van Halen would write and then builds into something a little more sonically mature and involved, and ends with a short but aggressive drum-lead beat. All of this in just over one minute. It's a great way to kick off the album by showing off a quick portfolio of skills. Another standout track is "Astraeus," which sounded very familiar the first time I heard the intro. I finally figured out that the intro had a similar feel (at least in my mind) to Megadeth's "Head Crusher" from 2009's Endgame. Both songs are actually quite different once you move beyond the intro, but there's that familiarity that struck me on first listen. I guess great music minds really do think alike. The album ends with John's cover of Alice DeeJay's "Better Off Alone." I think the crowning coincidence is that the album that the original song appeared on was called Who Needs Guitars Anyway? Kiernan's adaptation is excellent and catchier than the original, if that's possible. Guest vocalist Syka lends her pipes to the track, showcasing an impressive sustain and vocal control.
If you're into Instrumental Metal and Shred, I highly recommend you check out Of Oceans today. Plus, John's a really nice guy, and a Giants fan, so he's got that going for him as well.