Darkness is a common theme in metal. From the sound, to the imagery, to the artwork, to the words either bellowed or growled, you can’t escape the feeling that something creepy and evil might be making its way up your spine, into your mouth, and into your bloodstream. In fact, that very thing allures so many of us to this music and keeps us forever.
Not every band pulls this off with great skill, mind you, but when one comes along that has the thing down pat, it’s time to bow your head, raise a glass of dark libations, and salute the sooty souls responsible for creating what’s setting up shop inside your head. We have that very thing today with German/Swedish duo The Oath, the latest signing by the powerful Rise Above, the practical go-to source for great, true doom metal. Simply, The Oath are one of the most compelling new bands of the year so far. What they do isn’t exactly breaking the mold, and there are a lot of other bands out there–Blood Ceremony, Mount Salem, Witch Mountain–that do similar things. But that makes those bands I used as comparison touchpoints is their special approach to their music, and The Oath have that very same thing. You feel and believe every drop of their music, and if you’re like me, you’ll be surprised when halfway through their tremendous self-titled debut record, that you’re utterly intoxicated and lost somewhere in time.
Now, there’s a full group of people responsible for the playing of the music on The Oath’s debut record, but the band itself is comprised of two core members in vocalist Johanna Sadonis and guitarist Linnea Olsson. They declare they always will be the only full-time members of The Oath, and with the magic they conjure together, there’s no reason at all to question that thinking. Both are incredible performers, full of special skill that easily makes you open your eyes and pay attention when you hear them play, and they have those extra gears not everyone has. They have a really awesome take on old-style metal and doom in the vein of pre-Dickinson Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, and even modern warriors In Solitude, and it’s so easy to get caught up in what they do. Joining them on this record are bassist Simon Bouteloup and drummer Andrew Prestidge, and they do a whale of a job hammering home these songs.
I cited the evil and darkness afoot on this album, and you get a healthy dose on opener “All Must Die,” a strong, catchy song where Sadonis calls, “Satan come to me,” paying homage to the underground forces and later howling, “Rise like the morning light.” I was instantly hooked with this song, and things just go up from here. “Silk Road” has strong, smoky singing, fluid guitar work, and compelling drama and passion that are hallmarks of this band’s songs. “Night Child” is built on great, charging riffs and more dark, infectious singing, with Sadonis observing, “I hear my father calling,” as if her eyes are rolling into the back of her head in midst of a trance. “Leaving Together” is more mid-paced but also very mesmerizing, with a slow-burn melody treatment and a feeling like you’re in the middle of a hallucination-filled fever dream.
“Black Rainbow” kicks the pace back up again, with those In Solitude comparisons coming on strong (in a good way), and the band settles into a great, doomy shuffle where Sadonis takes command by calling, “We were the ones that were born to die.” Great song. “Silver and Dust” flows nicely, with more chugging melodies, some great soloing, and, of course, tremendous vocals that soar and enrapture. “Death Delight” is packed with evil temptation, more rock-solid darkness, and Sadonis referencing the shadowy figure again by poking, “He is the devil coming for you.” And it should be pointed out that when this band brings up the devil, it’s not some horned creature with a pitchfork. It’s black essence literally here to devour your soul. “In Dream” is an acoustic-based instrumental that leads into the finale “Psalm 9,” a seven-minute closer that begins with an eerie, trickling pace that eases you into a deep slumber, as they rock you with spooky dreams when Sadonis warns, “Fall onto your knees, I’m not praying for your soul.” And then the world ignites, as the band starts clubbing you heavily, kicking up a spectacular gallop that fills your lungs with dust and lights the world on fire. “Seven is my name!” Sadonis howls, as the band burns everything to the ground, giving one final salvo to make your heart race and for you to give yourselves over fully to The Oath.
I never doubt Rise Above and the talent they spread to the world, and The Oath are another incredible building block for that label. Hell, this band is so powerful, they could become the label’s go-to group in short time, as long as they continue to build on what they do here and remain true to their mission. The Oath’s debut is a keeper, one every fan of classic metal and doom should track down and absorb in full. You won’t be sorry, and you might even find that your nightmares will become a little more interesting from here on out.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.theoathisdead.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/store/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/