REVIEW: Oathbreaker – “Rheia”

Oathbreaker make a very impressive comeback to the hardcore/blackgaze/sludge scene with their new release Rheia. This particular scene is, in my opinion, packed with many mediocre acts, and I wouldn’t say I pay too much attention to it. However, Oathbreaker is a name that rings clear in my memory, and only with good things. Mælstrøm, their first release, was angry crust punk wall-to-wall, with female vocalist Caro Tanhe spewing vitriol over hardcore guitars and drums. Eros|Anteros (2013) added black metal, post-metal and more sludge to the aforementioned sound. And this time around, everything’s bumped up in a better-directed effort throughout the record.

To begin with, “10:56” haunts with Tahne’s clean vocals over an almost absent instrumentation. With a BPM rise of ~250, the mood changes in a heartbeat whilst seamlessly flowing into “Second Son Of R”. I don’t like black metal, but the way Oathbreaker has combined slower, atmospheric clean sections with black metal’s riffing style, along with the drumming and song structures reminiscent of Converge, melds together so well it’s simply beautiful.

Rheia takes the sludgy material Eros|Anteros had 2-3 songs filled to the brim with and meshes it with the fury of the first record. It doesn’t feel awkward; no, it’s just right. Tahne’s vocal range, dynamic and emotional extent are well-tapped into in each and every piece. For the sake of an example, take the next song, “Being Able To Feel Nothing”: The soft, angelic background musings mix with passionate, narrative singing, whispering and straight-up harsh black metal shrieks. By this point I’m falling in love with her voice!

Following is “Stay Here/Accroche-Moi”, an acoustic, reverb-ridden, slower and more emotional track. It’s an eye (actually, one of the many) of the storm that is found this album and leads into “Needles In Your Skin” – a personal song judging by the lyrics and, foremost, the tone of her voice, which alternates from pleading to damning. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the album; hopefully, you’ve gotten a feel for what you’re in for.

Not only has the vocalist stepped up her game, so too has everybody else. Each vocal line is appropriately accompanied by drummer Ivo Debrabandere’s and guitarist Lennart Bossu’s thorough use of blackened riffs, blast beats, reverberated, melodic strumming, wicked fills, tremolo picking, fuzz, or even silence. Yes, that is precisely how they fill this record, never oversaturating single elements and never growing stale. This is what intensifies every moment, what Eros|Anteros lacked and what makes Rheia stand out: the menacing storm with many eyes. Oathbreaker have hereby deservedly cemented their place in the extreme music scene.

You can stream and purchase Rheia on the band’s website or Bandcamp page and follow what they’re up to on Facebook.

Score: 9/10

Notable tracks: “Needles In Your Skin”, “Second Son Of R”, “Where I Live”

FFO: Deafhaven, Rolo Tomassi, Converge, Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas

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