30th September 2016 – Deathwish Inc.
02. Second Son of R.
03. Being Able to Feel Nothing
04. Stay Here / Accroche-Moi
05. Needles In Your Skin
07. I’m Sorry, This Is
08. Where I Live
09. Where I Leave
Memory is a marvelously complicated thing. It really is astounding just what a person can forget about given half a chance; somehow I forgot that Belgian quartet Oathbreaker existed, AND that I absolutely loved them when they stood out headlining Camden’s Underworld back in 2014 atop a bill of real quality. Thank goodness for PR agents who are both articulate and insistent eh?
The thing with memory is that it can all come flooding back with the right stimulus. The isolated, exposed vocal of Caro Tanghe that serves as the introduction to new album Rheia immediately recalls the impression she made that night two years ago, garbed in simple white and personifying both rage and vulnerability in one. With no accompanying instrumentation for a good minute, the recollection of a particularly sobering and relationship-defining moment feels all the more weighty.
Its twin “Second Son of R.” sits at the opposite, more immediate end of the spectrum, reintroducing Oathbreaker’s exceptional cathartic artistry by leaping headlong – and at a not inconsiderable pace – into their purifying brand of blackened hardcore; all screams, bellows, blast beats and despair. Lennart Bossu’s guitar carries a destructive, cheerless tone absolutely key to the album’s successful execution; Rheia‘s character is one of its real strengths; its unified mood makes the hour it lasts fly by.
Sitting parallel to the light/dark dichotomy of bands like Rolo Tomassi, Oathbreaker’s ability to infect the squalling intensity of their heavier sections with groove, or drop away into echo-laden acoustic guitar, and utilise both furious tempo and languid drum work shows remarkable compositional intelligence. The sublime “Needles In Your Skin” typifies this, with Ivo Debrabandere’s unhurried but insistent drumming building the track behind Tanghe’s innocent crooning, before it launches into a tirade of feedback and black metal tremolo picking, ramping up the anxious energy into a truly epic climax.
In mythology, Rheia is the mother of the ancient Greek pantheon, who are perhaps the original dysfunctional family. The album’s lyrical themes deal with a broken relationship with a stymieing, burdensome family member, reflecting on childhood and the grip a parent can have over you, even after their death. It’s powerful stuff, made more potent by the method and unerring quality of the delivery.
Rheia is absolutely phenomenal record, almost tailor-made for the coming months of cold and darkness in the northern hemisphere. Bleak, emotional, and packing a dense range of complementary musical styles, Oathbreaker have ironically made good on the fierce promise of their earlier work and delivered a seminal album that is surely their magnum opus.