Saturday, January 14, 2012

Record Review: OATHBREAKER - "Mælstrøm" (Deathwish Records)

With this post, Take Your Shot fanzine celebrates a total of 300 posts! We'd like to thank all the people who visit & read, as well as the bands and labels who support us and put out awesome music. It's been a long and joyful trip in the wondrous world of underground music and it's not like we feel like stopping any time soon. In fact, our crew is now stronger than ever! On this 300th post, contributor Nick reviews Oathbreaker's weird but melodic post hardcore/crust masterpiece. Read on & enjoy!

Genre: Post Hardcore/Crust
Country: Belgium
Label: Deatwish Inc
Band Website: facebook

Three years after the release of their outstanding self-titled EP, Belgium hardcore kids Oathbreaker, strike back with their first full length Mælstrøm. Yet, another fine piece of hardcore/crust/metal tunes that are worth our attention. What I really like on these guys & girls (lady on vocals) is that they achieve to combine various elements of heavy music, keeping the hardcore aesthetics at the front page and succeed to sound unique and everything else but boring.

Though I don’t usually write about particular songs of an album, I think that in this case it is the best way to review Mælstrøm and give a clearer idea about what you are about to listen and feel. This happens mainly because of the various elements included as well as because of the huge differences between each song. Let’s start randomly checking out some of the tunes then.
The album starts with a “black-ish” riff, confusing the ones that were expecting to hear a typical hardcore/punk band but immediately turns to be an á la Converge type song, showing the band's major influence and intentions. Moreover, we can't overlook that the album was mixed by Kurt Ballou and mastered by Alan Douches (Converge, The Dillinger Escape Plan). Crust-punk drumming and guitar riffing mainly follow the style of Cursed and Rise and Fall, accompanied at several points with “sick” guitar melodies and a lower tempo turn. These turns upgrade the song and remind us why Converge is one of the leading and most influential bands in the hardcore/metal scene the last 15 years. (Ok, I promise not to use the word Converge again in this review).

Mælstrøm goes on with a catchy-groovy-heavy yet trivial and indifferent riff that you have heard 1 million times before. However, it gets you in the mood and fortunately it doesn’t last long as the song (“Hierophant”) turns to be a typical crossover-thrash tune bringing memories of early nineties and late eighties bands. Similar lines are followed in the song “Thorn” (even the guitar solo is so fucking old-school) until the last minute, when it gradually enters a more doom/sludge notion and crawls with it till the end. I would like to mention again the “black-ish” sound and riffing that is obvious here as in many other songs of the album.

The highlight of this blackened sound is the six-minute “Glimpse of the Unseen” which is a 100% black metal song at the style of Satyricon (post-Rebel Extravaganza period), Tombs and Burzum. Sadistic low tempo riffs, grated guitars and torn vocals at one of the best songs of the album. Album closes with an acoustic 4 minute epilogue (“Mælstrøm”) that brings you back in a safe place and lets you breathe at normal rates again. Imagine Botch’s Afghamistam (the first part of it) with clean female vocals like Gathering and you get the picture! When the singing part starts, it's hard to believe that it's not Anneke Van Giesbergen's (The Gathering, Agua the Annique) voice, not only because of the voice similarity but also because of the similar vocal lines.

Sludge/Doom influences are also observed, i.e. in the third song of the album (“Fate Is High”), which starts with a riff that brings in mind bands like Solitude Aeturnus and Cathedral but it continues heavily influenced by more contemporary acts like High on Fire, Black Cobra and Kylesa. The rotation of fast and slow rhythms, the atmospheric feel and a more “fixed play” give you a feeling of entering dark passages and facing dragons and demons. Same story happens during the song “Black Sun”, which could be easily be described as the end of the story that started with “Fate Is High”.

Some of you might have been already convinced to check out the album (or not). Some of you might be confused. To be honest now from reading what I have written so far, I am a bit confused too. In the end, is it a good album or not? Can it be that such a weird mixture is good? Is it maybe a bit too much? Are they just copying all the things that I have described with nothing new to tell? But then I am thinking that Mælstrøm has been stacked into my playlist for more that two months already.

Oathbreaker sound way more mature than their previous work, show a tremendous capability to combine so many things, and they are not afraid to show their influences and to experiment with them. Finally, I would like to mention that I cannot think of or even imagine a better production for this album.

For the confused ones then, the clearer answer I can give to their doubt is: Check this shit out!

Nikos Tolis
nikostolis [at] gmail [dot] com

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