Oathbreaker - Maelstrom
2011, Deathwish Inc.
For some reason women rarely feature in the bands I listen to, which is perhaps not so strange considering the testosterone levels of most of the music within the metal and hardcore scenes. But it's always been there at the back of my mind: why is it that only a handful of the acts I listen to with any degree of regularity have any female members (Landmine Marathon, Despise You and Detente comes to mind)? Don't they rock as hard as their male counterparts? Of course they do.
Do they somehow lack some prerequisite ability or obviously male-only metal/punk talent? Of course they don't.
Perhaps it's just a matter of female musicians having a hard time penetrating the heavily guarded walls to the Boy's Club of Rock n Roll and proving themselves? Probably.
Either way, Oathbreaker vocalist Caro (a member of that supposedly weaker sex), doesn't need to prove shit to me. She's more than welcome into the Boy's Club. In fact, she'll probably kick most of their asses. Rarely have I heard a vocalist perform so fucking outstandingly well in this specific genre. Male or female. Her unbelievably harsh midrange screams fit perfectly as a counterweight to the density of Oathbreaker's music. At first I thought her vocals would get a bit stagnant since they rarely ever stray from that almost panic-like sense of vicious desperation and anger, but I soon realised they're fucking perfect for what the band does. And once you scrutinise the lyrics a little bit closer, that realisation only stenghtens.
Oathbreaker does that whole metallic hardcore thing, and they do it really well, with tons of tempo shifts and breakdowns, moving from upper midtempo to sludgy almost Sabbathy riffage without sounding contrived or unfocused. They're slightly closer to the metal end of things than most of their contemporaries but this fits their style to a t. They're also alot heavier than many of the bands I'd usually tag as metallic hardcore, but they in no way come off sounding as an Integrity or Ringworm clone. In fact it's only by default and a lack of a better genre descriptor I'd even call their music metallic hardcore as these guys (and gal) have done what precious few bands ever do, which is to perfectly meld punk and hardcore aggression and simplicity with the complexity and higher level of musicianship of such diverse bands as Slayer, Converge and Ministry (minus the industrial parts).
This is the band's sophmore release, follwing their self titled debut from 08, which blew me away a couple of months ago. On Maelstrom they've sharpened their collective tools a bit and brought out an immense heaviness that wasn't quite as apparent on the debut ep. Still present but slightly less obvious than before are the touches of melody the band manages to pour into the gaps and cracks of the songs, fleshing them out without bloating them. Production-wise this is top-of-the-line shit. I wouldn't change a thing. Everything is exactly where it should be in the mix. There's enough density and warmth to add to the heaviness of the songs but still with a sense of space and clarity. This is definately one of the best hardcore/metal releases so far this year.