The Reticent
The Oubliette


5.0
classic

Review

by DivergentThinking USER (138 Reviews)
December 15th, 2020 | 17 replies


Release Date: 09/25/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Letting go, one by one, piece by piece

I can't even imagine how horrifying it would be to have Alzheimer's disease. Having your fondest memories slowly disintegrate from your mind as your body starts failing sounds like one of the worst ways to die, and it would be equally hard for your family and friends to witness it. Through a loved one of mine who passed away years ago, I do sadly have first-hand experience with how it affects people mentally and physically; it's also for this reason that The Oubliette is one of the most emotionally resonant albums I've heard in a long time. While The Reticent's progressive metal style is pretty familiar for anyone who's listened to an Opeth or Soen record, it's the way they use this sound that makes them so unique and interesting. The record, which follows a bedridden Alzheimer's sufferer named Henry, is almost entirely written in a first-person point of view, offering the listener a chance to know what it's like to be immersed in such a devastating condition and struggle. Every track showcases Henry's condition getting progressively worse, the concept bolstered by both the heartbreaking lyrics and the even more heartbreaking spoken word clips that often connect the tracks to each other. But something else this album excels at is what I like to call "musical imagery," in which the music is in service of the concept and the lyrics rather than being presented independently. This is even true of the more technical showcases on the record, such as on "The Nightmare"; the brutal riffs and skittering off-kilter drums perfectly illustrate the fear and confusion associated with this stage of Henry's condition, and it really leaves you both on-edge and incredibly sad that this is what his life has come to. But this approach works just as well the other way around; the sparse minimalistic piano work that begins the title track speaks so much more loudly than words ever could, especially as it follows a really depressing vocal clip revealing just how "gone" Henry is.

The way this album is structured and composed is just so impressive, though. For instance, the very first song "His Name is Henry" is the only song that's presented in a third-person point of view, most likely to set the scene for the rest of the record before really immersing the listener into the rest of the experience. This is also evident by the more tenuous and lowkey instrumentation that kicks off this track; the whole thing feels very cinematic, as the music toys with dynamics in such a way that you could easily imagine the film that could accompany this album (although the band have been making music videos for it, so there's that). I know I haven't really brought up the actually technical aspects of the music very much yet, but honestly, that's the part that doesn't warrant as much attention here. In terms of how The Reticent sound sonically and compositionally, they don't exactly innovate much on The Oubliette; the musicianship is at an incredibly high standard, but the music is the usual combination of weird time signatures, varying dynamics, and switching between clean and growled vocals that you'd expect from this corner of the prog metal market. But again, what elevates this entire piece of work is how they integrate the overall narrative and emotional weight into the music. And nowhere is this more perfectly captured than on the final track, "_________". That blank title should pretty much tip you off on what's going on here, but having Henry (and metaphorically, the listener) drown in a lush orchestral number before he goes to sleep for a final time is both so poignant and so damn devastating at the same time. We all knew this was how the album would end, but it's still an emotional gut punch when it happens.

But that's exactly what The Oubliette is: an emotional gut punch. It's fitting that the title is another word for "dungeon," as it really feels like every successive song is widening and darkening the dungeon our narrator is trapped in mentally. As you might imagine, this is definitely not an easy record to digest and I don't recommend it as casual listening. But it's been a long time since a album has hit me this hard, and whether or not you're a prog or metal fan, I do highly suggest listening to it at least once for the sheer experience of it. These are the kinds of artistic heights that any modern concept album should aspire to reach.



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user ratings (82)
4
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
DivergentThinking
December 15th 2020


6923 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This one was exhausting to say the least

parksungjoon
December 15th 2020


25907 Comments


how many accounts does one reviewer need

Digging: Government - Shitshitshit [japanese death poem]

DivergentThinking
December 15th 2020


6923 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Just this one, now that I'm back on it. This is the only one I'm using from here on out if I decide to stay on the site (although I see this review more as a one-off since I don't use Sput much anymore)

Shiranui
December 15th 2020


746 Comments


Is that a limp dick on the cover?

DivergentThinking
December 15th 2020


6923 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

lol thanks, now that's all I'm gonna think about when I see the cover

WalrusTusk
December 16th 2020


519 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Really solid album.

Slex
December 16th 2020


10923 Comments


Beautiful write-up for a fantastic album! Might bump to a 4.5 soon tbh

Digging: Seiko Oomori - Kintsugi

DivergentThinking
December 17th 2020


6923 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thank you Slex!

SacredSerenity
December 19th 2020


745 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

First time listening to this, I feel real strong Opeth vibes. Especially the Captive remindes me a lot of Bleak

DivergentThinking
December 20th 2020


6923 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oh yeah, definitely a lot of Opeth vibes for sure

NicolasREV
January 8th 2021


2 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

My absolute favorite of 2020, what a great disc.

DivergentThinking
January 8th 2021


6923 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, definitely my favorite 2020 album as well

Cygnatti
January 12th 2021


34377 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

kinda impressed by some of this ngl

Digging: Ekman - Alchemy

WalrusTusk
January 13th 2021


519 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't return to it often but every time I do I find something else to enjoy.

Frost15
January 13th 2021


71 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This reminds me of Opeth, Soen and late Extol a lot, which is a very nice thing! Excellent stuff, lots of feels here too. Very emotional album.

WalrusTusk
January 13th 2021


519 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Dude "_______: Stage 7" is a brutal ending.

Frost15
January 13th 2021


71 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah man, this album is not for the faint of heart. It's devastating, a perfect representation of this terrible disease. The atmosphere here is similar to that of Steven Wilson's albums but way more sad



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