Album Review: OATHBREAKER Rheia
A ghostly resonance, and much needed change to form is to be found with this new album from Oathbreaker.
We are experiencing quite a number of bands that are bringing in, or who have attempted to bring a new Avant-Garde blackened music. With acts such as Deafheaven and Ghost Bath, there is this common sound of droning and thick atmosphere to transport the listener and twist emotion. These concepts result in extremes, either being pulled off successfully or ending in monotony, proving either fantastic musicianship, or those just looking to hop on the bandwagon. It is in this same realm of subgenre where we find Oathbreaker, and in those similar elements (along with their post-hardcore sound), we find a breath of fresh air. Belgian’s Oathbreaker’s newest record Rheia (Deathwish Inc.), is an incredible step up from their previous efforts.
Where as the previous record Eros/Anteros presented little variation in style and sound, settling in on a single energy of emotion, Rheia presents a wider range in both emotion and sounds, and displays enough chemistry throughout to escape that dreadful monotony that can be found in today’s popular blackened style of heavy music. Opening with “10:56” presents the overall tone for the album: Somber. It is also the first glimpse of what will come of vocalist Caro Tanghe’s range, opening with the spoken word tears. Instrumentation crawls in from the background and beautifully transitions into the following track “Second Son of R”, the record’s most heaviest song. This is the best, and strongest example of when Rheia explores anger, for the primary drive in drums and guitar pummel with little pause (which come in time just for a quick breath). Tanghe’s vocalization acts the same, as a relentless wave of wails and shrieks that are chill inducing hit after hit with ferocity. We are given a shift in “Stay Here/Accrochie-Moi”: heavy sound is traded for acoustics and a ghostly lingering. And while the vocals have a distance to them, this is the first time we get a sense of clean singing. It is truly cemented here that Tanghe’s lyricism is haunting and poetic, gothic and honest.
“Needles In Your Skin” opens with the same gentle nature before transforming into the pummeling found previously, but which makes for a welcoming shift given the time to reflect both emotionally and in an auditory sense. This made for some of the more impressive guitar work with shifting sounds of melody and chugging. There’s a moment where the guitar and drums compose themselves like a racing heart rate. Towards the ending we are given a terrific sonic energy of the guitar that fades into clashing and fuzz. The vocals of “Immortals” are bright and come off with an echo. Instrumentation here is possibly some of the brightest that will be found on the record, focusing more on a melody and taking a step back from the need to slam towards the end of the track. This switch in formula is a strong example how deviating from the same sound can still give the same tone and emotion that the music wishes to give off. “Immortals” is an airy track that in its almost nine minute run time gives strong moments of rest, before ending on strong dreamy strumming and clashing.
In between here and the ending are ghostly auras and moments full of adrenaline, all while remaining somber. At this point Oathbreaker shows that at its core it builds upon the atmosphere like other bands belonging to its sub-genre, while creating a distance from that sound and being unique. Oathbreaker finds plenty of room throughout the record to drop bits and pieces of different elements to shake things up, which aide in it never becoming monotonous. While not overly repetitious, many will get use to that pummeling sound found throughout the record song after song, making it the only slight negative to be found. The record ends on “Begeerte” which is perhaps the simplest track (absolutely not meant as an insult). After the constant shifts of pummeling and acoustics, wails to singing, “Begeerte” comes off in sorrowful, ghostly instrumentals, clean vocals and chanting. After a fire that has been going since the beginning, it is the signal for the flame to slowly drift into darkness.
Rheia is a terrific step up not only for Oathbreaker, but for the sort of “blackened anything” crowd. While at times repetitive in its pummeling drive, it presents enough variety and doesn’t sacrifice story or emotion. It stands out as a body of work unique to what other bands are doing today. Rheia is a record thick with atmosphere and poetry that one can only call ethereal.