Oathbreaker – ‘Rheia’

By Glen Bushell

If ever there was as band that is a force to be reckoned with, it’s Oathbreaker. With each release they have become more visceral, more intense, and more important to the world of aggressive music. It will come as no surprise to anyone that their third album, ‘Rheia’, is once again a vicious body of work. However this time, this is Oathbreaker like you have never heard them before.

So often do you hear of bands making “the light parts lighter, and the heavy parts heavier” etc, but in the case of Oathbreaker, this is the most beautiful they have sounded, and also the most unhinged. Vocalist Caro Tanghe has utilised her singing voice in a way that in the past, has only been reserved for one or two moments in Oathbreaker’s catalogue. The eerie opening track, ’10:56’, is virtually accapella, and shows a fragility that we have never seen from Tanghe, and the haunting acoustic number, ‘Stay Here / Accroche-Moi’, shows a new side to this Belgian powerhouse.

The moments where Oathbreaker have toned things down only add to the tension that builds throughout ‘Rheia’. Just as you find yourself getting lost in these near-heartbreaking passages, it lures you into a false sense of security. When the storm comes, it comes hard and erratic. ‘Second Son of R.’ and ‘Immortals’ are two of the most violent tracks this band has ever conceived. The brutal, jagged guitars are simply blistering, and they contain hues of hypnotic black metal when they are carried by frantic blast beats.

This light/dark approach that Oathbreaker have applied to ‘Rheia’ is not just reserved to standalone tracks, which shows a huge progression in their already accomplished song writing. ‘Being Able To Feel Nothing’ is arguably one of the more diverse tracks they have put together, but the Bjork-esque vocal melodies that Tanghe takes on still fits the cascading walls of metallic riff’s that collide underneath her. Then there’s the slow burning build of ‘Needles In Your Skin’, which comes a to a decadent yet volatile head, and the glorious trio of ‘I’m Sorry, This Is’, ‘Where I Live’, and ‘Where I Leave’ needs to be heard to be believed.

Very few records that would be filed under the bracket of aggressive music are as moving as ‘Rheia’. It might even be seen as a daring move by Oathbreaker to release something that is stylistically different by comparison to both their previous LPs, ‘Maelstrom’ and ‘Eros | Anteros’. That said, this change is a welcome one. While they have never been in any danger of become stale, if they didn’t these risks, we wouldn’t have been blessed by such a brooding closing track as ‘Begeerte’.

‘Rheia’ is as close to a perfect heavy album as you likely to hear this year. It is an emotional journey that is both vulnerable and abrasive, and the most unforgiving Oathbreaker have ever sounded.

GLEN BUSHELL

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