About a month ago, Belgian post metallers Oathbreaker unveiled “10:56/Second Son of R” the first two tracks of their upcoming third LP “Rheia”. So enthralled was I by said song(s) (and video) that I was a little ashamed to have not been previously familiar with the band. Now, as “Rheia” nears release and I’ve done my best to digest it’s many pleasures, I recognize just how brilliant it was for the band to have initially released “10:56/Second Son of R”, as the whole of “Rheia” takes that epic arrangement as a starting point and brilliantly drags listeners even deeper into the melancholy and further into the outrage of its dense, operatic tragedy.
Like something of a female fronted Deafheaven upon first listen, Oathbreaker eventually blossoms more akin to Converge at their most gut wrenchingly tumultuous, fronted by goth enigma Chelsea Wolfe. But even on stripped down straight ballad “Stay Here/Accroche-Moi” (one of the record’s most effective and affecting) vocalist Caro Tanghe resonates profoundly, though she’s at her rawest and most tormented on “Being Able To Feel Nothing”, churning in a sea of turmoil, adrift in the undertow.
Fellow Oathbreakers Ivo Debrabandere, Gilles Demolder and Lennart Bossu are more than up to the task of instrumentally forging ahead to whatever disparate soundscapes Tanghe’s prowess dictates travel to, in no way more evident than on album anchor and standout “Immortals”. Tanghe adopts an almost soothing echo as the band introduce a resonant groove element to their attack, a warm sound almost tactile enough to reach out an feel, before her screams become a maelstrom of bleakness, leading to a spare passage of bare drums and voice, before another heart breaking denouement.
People like to throw clichés like “emotional rollercoaster” around a lot when it comes to a record this sonically captivating but Oathbreaker truly fight earn the distinction, savagely slashing and clawing their way ahead of the cerebrally engaging, aggressively crushing and sentimentally devastating post hardcore pack. “Rheia” is a watershed moment in modern metal on par with Deafheaven’s groundbreaking “Sunbather”, it’s accomplishments are an almost overwhelming task to unpack, but demand to be experienced and celebrated.