Friday, 9 December 2016

ALBUM REVIEW: Oathbreaker - "Rheia"

By: Jay Hampshire

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 30/09/2016
Label: Deathwish Inc


While it seems like each year there are those one or two records that gather attention or praise, then fade into obscurity once their impact wanes, “Rheia” is an album of such purpose and conviction that it is hard to see the impact it has had diminish any time soon. While this florid, high praise might seem sycophantic or overly subjective, trust in this: “Rheia” really is that good.



“Rheia” CD//DD//LP track listing: 



1. 10:56
2. Second Son of R.
3. Being Able to Feel Nothing
4. Stay Here / Accroche-Moi
5. Needles in Your Skin
6. Immortals
7. I’m Sorry, This Is
8. Where I Live
9. Where I Leave
10. Begeerte


The Review:


If you’ve even taken a cursory glance at a metal magazine, website or outlet since September, chances are you will have caught some of the furore surrounding Oathbreaker’s latest release, third studio album “Rheia”. Possibly one of the most lauded records of the last twelve months, by critics and fans alike, the Belgian blackened-hardcore crew have spawned a record that has grabbed metal’s collective consciousness by taloned feet, pricking up the ears of even the most dour and resistant to innovation.

It’s an album of subtlety and brute force, married together through heel-turn dynamic shifts and crafty song writing. Opener ’10:56’ eases us in with more of the former, with Caro Tanghe’s lilting, fragile vocals nestled among a quivering swell of rising feedback. Second Son Of R.has no such airs and graces, immediately whipping you away on a torrent of frantic, tremolo picked riffs, blast beats and Tanghe’s envenomed shrieks. It’s a breathless, jarring shift that smooths out, dropping into gentle guitars and clean vocals, before the instrumentation spreads wide and tumbles once more into a dense, manic drive.

‘Being Able To Feel Nothing’ is rampant from the off, with the kind of thick, rushing black metal intro you’d expect from a Gorgoroth track, before the ethereal wail of the vocals enters and the song settles into a deep set groove. Things shift and change organically, winding down into sparse drums, breathy vocals and lush guitars. Tanghe’s delivery, soft and almost sweet, sits in stark contrast to the brutal serial-killer imagery of the lyrics. Cannily used negative space ushers in a slower, predatory section, dripping with malice. Stay Here / Accroche-Moi’ gives off an intimate, almost live vibe, looping, mournful acoustic guitar and wearied yet stoic vocals. It changes very little over its runtime, but holds and commands attention throughout.

‘Needles In Your Skin’ unsettles with backmasked guitar before locking into a slow, sultry shuffle, restrained, groaning vocals adding an air of exhausted malice. It sharply builds into icy blasts of tremolo riffs and blastbeats, driving in hard like broken glass. Immortals’ is a prime contender for ‘track of the album’, an easier pace and haunting, layered vocals adding a lot of breathing room, alternating between this mode and gasps of snare abusing drums, walls of riff and manic shrieks. It acts as a microcosm of the whole record, blooming with equal parts drama, melancholy and savagery, before a sparkling clean guitar loop adds hope towards the climax, like the last flittering contents of an opened Pandora ’s Box.

‘I’m Sorry, This Is’ tolls malevolently, rising synth tones and uneasy breathing adding threat to a sample of many voices that fades in, a spacious noise scape of entwining layers. It acts as an elongated intro to ‘Where I Live’, which rises from whining feedback and bursts into a soaring, grinding drive. Vocal motes echo, as if at the peripheral edges of your mind, and frantic cymbal work builds up into a whipping, rushing frenzy. A pacey, relentless, clattering aural assault that ends with smoky, ghostly synths and noise.

‘Where I Leave’ is born from jangling guitars and droning, fragile synths, punctuated by big statements of dour piano chords. Grunty bass undertows delicate upper harmonies, and deliberate drums evolve into an implacable slow groove. It’s moody, to say the least, towing wistful vocals and simple repetitions in its wake. Closer Begeerteis disarming; initially comprised of haunting, wailing vocal layering, it is joined by sparse, breathy guitar plucking and crunching electro runs. As it began so the album ends, with a softened whimper, not a roaring shout.

It’s nigh impossible to fully encapsulate what Oathbreaker have conjured with “Rheia” in print. It is a shifting, dynamic piece, unconcerned with expectation or limitation. Think back to when you saw that band, or heard that album, that had an impact you simply could not fully process, an effect you couldn’t accurately describe with words. While it seems like each year there are those one or two records that gather attention or praise, then fade into obscurity once their impact wanes, “Rheia” is an album of such purpose and conviction that it is hard to see the impact it has had diminish any time soon. While this florid, high praise might seem sycophantic or overly subjective, trust in this: “Rheia” really is that good.

Rheia” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

FFO: Deafheaven, Bosse-de-Nage, Alcest, The Secret

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