Friday, October 7, 2016

Album Review: Rheia by Oathbreaker

How awesome is the name "Oathbreaker" for a metal band?

I am late to this party, having only discovered Oathbreaker on the eve of Rheia's release through the advance singles. Over the last few days made up for it by listening to little else.

The record opens with the a Capella "10:56", which really should never have been separated from "Second Son of R.". One of their tags on Bandcamp is "hardcore" and while I don't find much of that on this record, the riffing on this track does fit the descriptor. Vocalist Caro Tangh's screams also have a strong hardcore feel, which isn't usually my cup of tea, but her harsh vocals are incredibly expressive and diverse. The vocals take Oathbreaker over the top into something special.

After listening to Oathbreaker's back catalog, I do hear a stronger hardcore influence in their first couple of releases, but things have changed.  The black metal riffs on this record, particularly on the next track "Being Able to Feel Nothing", remind me of Deathspell Omega more than anyone else, which is a very good thing. They sand the jagged edges off Deathspell's angular discord, smoothing things out considerably and leaving something less interesting to me personally but likely more palatable to many. The clean vocals, pleading "play with me" display deep vulnerability that continues in "Stay Here / Accroche-Moi" (hang me) a mellow acoustic ballad drenched in reverb.  Caro evokes Julie Christmas, and I don't mind.

"Needles in your skin" has its moments, but for me it's the low point of a record that doesn't need to clock in at over an hour.

"Immortals", the first Oathbreaker song I'd heard, feels like a fresh start, and would have been an excellent opener to side B in another age. It hooked me with its Gothic vibe, brought on by some moody tremolo picking and eerie close harmonies. When the heaviness sets in, the screams cut straight to the heart. Oathbreaker deal in sharp contrasts, as a meditative bridge provides a brief reprieve leading into some sludgy post-metal goodness.  "I'm Sorry, This Is" sounds like a reinterpretation of Deathspell's "First Prayer" (not the first time the Rheia has reminded of this particular piece), and the following two tracks offer a nice dose of shoegazey post-metal.

The album closer, "Begeerte" opens with the most ghostly vocals yet, and that's saying a lot; I feel like I'm in Tolkien's dead marshes. The ballad provides excellent closure for a great record.

Highly recommended, if a bit long.


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