Review Summary: Black metal and hardcore play nice on Oathbreaker's latest, and greatest, release.
Metal and hardcore have been successful and productive allies ever since the first half of the ‘80s when bands like Metallica and Slayer began injecting punk-like speed and ferocity into their signature brand of heavy rock. The “crossover” of metal and hardcore has since bared many delicious fruits including D.R.I., Cro-Mags, The Accused, and more recently the violently aggressive Converge and the very popular Hatebreed. And while some metal fans want there to be a considerable distance between metal and hardcore (a “like one and hate the other” mentality) it cannot be denied how tightly intertwined the genres have become, especially since the oft-maligned metalcore subgenre has become so accepted and widespread over the last decade or so. However, if the decidedly whiny clean vocals and copious breakdowns of metalcore aren’t your style, then you have some more-than-decent options at your disposal, and the Belgian black metal/hardcore crossover band Oathbreaker and their latest album Eros|Anteros is well worth taking a look at.
Disciples of metallic hardcore trailblazers Converge, Oathbreaker took a hold of that style and injected a heavy dose of black metal into it, and the results are, for lack of a better phrase, just plain awesome. Rapid tremolo picking, frenzied blast beats, and vocal cord ripping screeches are all present and they mix seamlessly with their dominant hardcore style. The black metal bits don’t feel tacked on to their music, which leaves the impression that Oathbreaker are deft in their mission to combine two essentially unrelated genres and sound great doing it, even masterful. Black metalcore? Where have you been all our lives?
While the aforementioned Converge is without question the band’s primary inspiration (with their chording and jangly riffage lifted from their handbook), the black metal augmentations cover a wide range of different influences. The album’s into track “Beeltenis” shows off atmospherics that wouldn’t be out of place on a Wolves in the Throne Room album, and the blackened-thrash tendencies on the tracks “Nomads” and “Condor Tongue” sound akin to the styles of Skeletonwitch, and perhaps Toxic Holocaust. The vocals are pure screeching black metal bliss, which is more impressive because the singer is a petite female. It’s an absolutely unrelenting and vicious delivery that puts an ear to ear grin on this reviewer’s face. But it’s not all blast beats and d-beats for Oathbreaker; the band has a tendency to slow things down (another parallel to Converge) and plod through a sinister groove with a little sludge metal influence shining through. Unfortunately, that band indulges in this too much on the closing track “Clair Obscur” which clocks in at over eleven minutes and doesn’t even come close to justifying its length. There’s nothing exciting (or even interesting) to be found in the first eight minutes of the song, and when the heavy guitars come in they drag through the remainder of the track while failing to do anything interesting either. It’s an underwhelming ending to an otherwise satisfying and well-rounded release.
With a voracious appetite for extreme metal and hardcore that was showcased on this record, Oathbreaker could very well expand to even broader territory on future releases, but on Eros|Anteros the band plays their Converge-meets-black metal approach almost perfectly and to gratifying effect. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t hit the spot (or at least come close to it) for any fan of extreme metal or hardcore who wants an accessible bridge to the other genre, and for those who are already in love with both genres, this is a feast of blackened sonic pleasure.