From the hollow beauty of “10:56”, to the sprawling melancholia of “Begeerte”, Oathbreaker‘s third full-length record Rheia grips the listener’s attention tight and doesn’t let go until the end of its 60-minute runtime. The Belgian quartet began life crafting vitriolic metallic hardcore anthems, most notably heard on their 2008 self-titled EP, and in a short amount of time have evolved into something new entirely. Though their experimentation with black metal and ambient music can be heard in each subsequent release since their first EP, seemingly reaching its apex on 2013’s Eros/Anteros, listeners will still not expect what Rheia delivers no matter how carefully they studied the band’s back catalog. Oathbreaker went out of their way to create an album that truly defines them and will undeniably be considered their magnum opus..
“10:56” opens up the record with vocalist Caro Tanghe singing by herself as ambient volume swells rise and fall in the background. Tanghe utilizes her clean vocals to a greater extent than she has on past Oathbreaker releases and they give the music an extra emotional punch that it didn’t know it needed. Her voice is simultaneously fragile and powerful, cutting deep into all those that listen. “10:56” bleeds directly into “Second Son of R”, a blistering track that opens with furious blast beats, melodic yet storming guitars, and Tanghe’s banshee shriek. The track cycles back and forth between intricate post-black metal blitzes and melodic, icy melodies before exploding in a fiery climax that will send chills down the spine.
“Needles in Your Skin” and “Immortals” are two of the album’s most massive and enthralling pieces. These auditory behemoths, both over seven-minutes in length, capitalize on all of the band’s strengths. Tremolo picked guitar riffs, rife with melody and brimstone, are unleashed in dynamic flurries upon the listener on these tracks. The band often trade in their blackened stampedes for more mid-paced sprawls, which often drift casually into post-rock and ambient territories. Once again Tanghe is at the heart of these compositions, transitioning seamlessly between venomous screams and ethereal croons.
“Stay Here / Accroche-Moi” is an interesting and heart-wrenching cut on the record. It is an acoustic guitar centered piece smothered in reverb that wears its emotionality on its sleeve, really digging into the sensitivities of the listener. It is a simple yet effective track. The final one-two punch of “Where I Leave” and “Begeerte” brings the record to an awe-inspiring, melancholic close. The nearly nine-minute “Where I Leave” begins with slow-burning clean guitars that are intertwined with hollow, somber atmospheres that are slowly accompanied by throbbing bass lines and thunderous percussion. Eventually the track explodes into a towering post-metal stomp that bleeds directly into the gloomy “Begeerte”. “Begeerte”‘s first minute or so is comprised of Tanghe’s hauntingly beautiful, layered vocals. Eventually reverberating, icy clean guitars and a powerful percussive presence slowly come into view and make for an atmospheric march to the end that leave listeners in awe of its gorgeous sadness.
Rheia is a grandiose and powerful album full of introspective and emotional weight. Oathbreaker have crafted something that transcends the conventions of the “post-black metal” genre and puts them miles ahead of their contemporaries. Listeners will be taken aback by how well-constructed these 10 songs are, not to mention how emotionally palpable they can be. It may have taken eight years but this is the Oathbreaker that Oathbreaker needed to be.
Release Date: September 30, 2016
Favorite Tracks “10:56/Second Son of R”, “Being Able to Feel Nothing”, “Needles in Your Skin” and “Immortals”
For Fans Of: Deafheaven, Hessian and Altar of Plagues