Belgian five-piece band Oathbreaker have come a long way since their debut on Deathwish label, 2011’s Mælstrøm, a 31 minutes long sonic assault, characterized by a generic sludge metal sound fused with hardcore and crust punk elements. The follower Eros/Anteros came out in 2013 and showed some flashes of what this band would eventually become, the black metal influence was more evident and they proved capable of writing meditative parts, but they definitely made the leap with their last record, out the 30th of September of this year, still on Deathwish.
Blackgaze emerged as a very popular genre during the last 5 years, simultaneously with the rise of the American band Deafheaven. Rheia starts where the band from San Francisco left, intertwining black metal elements with shoegaze guitars and atmospheric sludge metal production.
The album cover reflects incredibly well the dualism this record expresses. Aggression and mildness, tumult and comfort, all these elements are extremely present over the 63 minutes long listening, during which you won’t found many fillers. Only the fourth track Stay Here possibly doesn’t add much more to the record if not in the way it simply calms the waters before the best song of the package: Needles in Your Skin in which Oathbreaker excels in working with crescendos, managing to maintain an amazing high tension during the entire 7 minute song.
For the first time in their discography the Belgians effected some of Caro Tanghe’s vocals, for instance in the opening minutes of Immortal, before the fierce aggression comes back to haunt us; a female singer is hard to value in such a blending of genres, and it’s a great accomplishment for the quintet.
With the seventh track, I’m Sorry, This Is the atmosphere becomes dense and frightening, prelude to the shoegazing explosion in Where I Live, that is followed by the great slow-tempo intro of Where I Leave, the most solemn and majestic song here.
Besides a couple of moments the guitars are sharp and edgy, the drums are diversified and more challenging than the usual beats of the genre. Despite the lyrics somewhat lack in charisma, this aspect doesn’t hurt the record much thanks to the the great vocals and the rich instrumentation.
Beegerte, the closing song, could have been a more meaningful ending, instead it leaves the listener hungry for more passionate tracks like Second Son of R. or Needles in Your Skin, but it’s unquestionable that Oathbreaker found a terrific way to cross and unite very distant musical paths.
Best track: Needles in Your Skin
Full listen here: