By: Ross Gnarly
It’s been a while since I posted about Oathbreaker signing to Deathwish Inc but don’t think I have forgotten about the female-fronted hardcore entity. I haven’t stopped listening to the Belgian crushers’ latest album Mælstrøm a lot lately and decided it was time to write a review for it. Go ahead and forget the fact that the vocalist of Oathbreaker is a woman because, much like Kat Katz, Veronica Mars and Mel Mongeon, this woman has some balls. I don’t discriminate whatsoever when it comes to music. If it sounds good, I don’t care who is holding the microphone.
“Origin” opens with an eerie intro before bursting into a fantastic crust riff with hints of black metal. The drumming is an extraordinary d-beat. Everything is perfectly positioned and structured. The raw quality of the recording keeps this very interesting. A lot of the hardcore bands who have squeaky clean production turn out to be a bit boring. The blistering lead guitar towards the end if absolutely mind blowing. Yes. “Hierophant” opens into a vicious, driving riff accompanied by steady, hammering drumming. I love this track even before the vocals come in. There is such a violent, pissed off nature about this band that I love. When the vocals kick in, the track shifts into overdrive as it picks up the pace and pulverizes everything in its path. I have an extremely hard time sitting still to type while this song is on. This is the raw intensity that I can listen to all day.
“Fate Is Nigh” opens with up with a cryptic guitar section before the entire band chimes in and breaks into a filthy metallic hardcore chugging. The drumming is again spectacular and the vocals wail overhead. Shrieks of pure emotion and angst. You can tell when a vocalist is putting everything they have into the words they are screaming and when they aren’t. This singer knows exactly how to express her words into ungodly, high-pitch howls. “Sink Into Sin – I” kicks right into a ferocious yet atmospheric riff and off-the-wall drumming. These songs seem like they’d be 100% chaos, but they are extremely well executed. Everything falls into exactly the right spot and it sounds perfect. I really love that dark, mysterious tone that these guitars have.
“Sink Into Sin – II” opens in more of a cryptic, haunting fashion. Unintelligible words are being spoken behind the instrumentation. I don’t know what is being said, but it sends a chill down my spine. The track takes off, so to speak and turns into a mildly dooming punk track. The vocals remain the same but the instrumentation is much slower and more controlled. I like this. This is a whole new side to Oathbreaker that wasn’t present on the album until now. Very dark and melodic, this track adds a lot of character to this band that I already love. “Thoth” starts up with an utterly black metal vibe before the crusty hardcore washes over it. Quick, furious riffing and in-your-face, pummeling drumming. The vocals spew forth and sound as tortured as any I’ve ever heard. Towards the end of the track there is a nice groove that is set in. This track is amazing. Love it.
“Black Sun” breaks right into a venomous chugging and pulverizing drumming followed quickly by those amazing vocals that I keep raving about. Most of this track has a nice groove to it similar to the end of “Thoth.” I love that groove, it keeps me moving throughout the track. I love how aggressive this band can be and still have absolutely beautiful guitar work. I’m not talking about the chugging here, although that does rule, I mean the melodic lead guitar intersections that blend in so well. “Glimpse of The Unseen” opens with the most dark and unnerving way possible: feedback and ambience. After almost a minute of said ambience, the drumming comes in followed quickly by a nice, steady riff and sharp, vicious vocals. This track has the qualities of black metal with the attitude of hardcore. Parts of the song are slow and epic while other parts are a bit faster and truly punishing. There is a lot of adrenaline flowing through this doom-filled track as well as loads of emotion.
The album’s title track and final track “Mælstrøm” opens with a nice, soft acoustic guitar which is yet another side of this band not before seen on this album. The one guitar is soon joined by another and it creates a very haunting and beautiful atmosphere. After about two minutes of this, something that I absolutely did not expect came in: clean vocals. Not just any clean vocals, these are absolutely beautiful. I am reminded of the Cranberries, which is cool. I’m down with the Cranberries. While something like this would usually make me turn the other way on a heavy album like this, I quite enjoy it. It just shows that Oathbreaker break from the mold of your everyday hardcore band. Go get this record. Amazing work.
For fans of: Cursed, Rot In Hell, New Lows
Favorite track: “Thoth”, “Hierophant”
Label: Deathwish Inc.