The East Flanders-based Oathbreaker presents a subliminal resonance that enchantingly drives us to a cathartic realm of transcendence on their third full-length album Rheia, under Deathwish Inc. Produced by the mighty Jack Shirley (who had previously worked with Deafheaven, Loma Prieta, and Whirr), Rheia comes off as an ecstatic, viscerally presented convergence between black metal, post-hardcore, and post-metal. Often put in comparison with the likes of Deafheaven’s New Bermuda, it happens to be the kind of release that you would find yourself profoundly drowning in, with the vehement emotions radiating through frantic, devastating screams— sometimes switching to anthemic soothing voices, clashes of fuzz and soaring riffs, and drumbeats that resemble the racing sunbeams up there in the vague skies. It seems as if the earth is grieving, the strike of the thunderstorm transpiercing the cold grounds, and the speed of sound releasing a rapid pace of droning. It is undeniably captivating to see how much Oathbreaker’s sound has matured, especially in how they present sharp, profound asseverations of a wide variety of emotions through dark, poetic lyrics; or how they envisage an entombed soul in the form of song.
Tranquil and solemn, opener 10:56 presents Caro Tanghe’s soothing vocals, which resemble Valkyries singing—an overture to the groundbreaking paces of a life-changing, atmospheric realm of atrocities and grief. 10:56 transitions with the thrashing, blackened "Second Son of R", where Tanghe presents her exceptional poignant screams, which coexists with Lennart Bossu’s distorted guitar lines. The ending of "Second Son of R" appears to represent calamity with the way they invest vibes of anger towards it. "Being Able to Feel Nothing" depicts a serpentine road of anguish; a striking shade of fear on the midst of the fog. "Stay Here / Accroche Moi" is a representation of a desolate chastity presented through a calming, acoustic tune. The heavy-sounding "Needles In Your Skin", with its belligerent reverberation under the voice of clashing anger, despite the fact that this track is strongly conveys vibes of raging storms, still manages to show implicit sides of vulnerability. And then there’s "Immortals", a track that opens with an otherworldly, bright atmosphere coming from the vibrant vocals, leading to strong clashes that resembles a lacerating snowstorm. "I’m Sorry, This Is" comes off as an indecipherable, perplexing track that features wordless voices from Caro Tanghe. And then, "Where I Live" opens with the sound of synthesizers, continued with howling paces of the ferocious sounds they create. It transitions with" Where I Leave", where both songs evoke a collision between raw crusts and synths. Closing track "Begeerte" starts with a blistering, heart-wrenching tranquility that has a Myrkur-esque vibe, and features industrial references on the drum beats.
Oathbreaker has succeeded in creating a subliminal atmosphere and vision through a wide variety of sounds on Rheia. This omnipotence is reinforced by how their lyrics, though dark and incinerating, maintains a sense of chaste honesty layered by destruction. It’s mesmerizing how this album can range from blackgaze crusts, to synth effects, to industrial-eqaue drumbeats.
RALKA F. SKJERSETH is a card-carrying Lacanian whose soul is made of Valyrian steel. She loves Tolstoy’s idea of anarcho-pacifism that anarchism should be manifested with no coercion, and her music preference could switch from Trash Talk to Balmorhea really quick. She writes for zines and publishings sometimes when she’s not revolting, and her misadventures can be found at @raijaarseth.