Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oathbreaker - Maelstrom review

The Oncoming Storm

Belgium serves as a hotspot for metalcore ever since the 1990s. While not as popular as other international scenes influenced by Scandinavia, the Slayer/Cro-Mags-infused "H8000" style ('H' standing for hateful, '8000' referring to the West Flanders post area in Belgium) was a different beast. After some touring and an EP on Thirty Days of Night Records, offspring band Oathbreaker expands with a full release on Deathwish Inc. titled "Maelstrom" (stylized as "Mælstrøm") While it sounds absolutely destructive with fast riffs infused with doom on the side, there is the notion of its unfortunate problems that luckily doesn't detract too much.

The word maelstrom is defined as a very powerful whirlpool and throughout the years has been exaggerated to give it a very destructive meaning. The bulk of Oathbreaker's latest piece puts that sense into the sound excellently. Opener 'Origin' presents itself with strong d-beat drumming, Converge-esque guitar attacks, and in your face vocals from female frontlady Caro. It also foreshadows that the future songs will be as, if not more devastating. Even if Kurt Ballou is a hit or miss on mixing, he deserves credit making the feel right in Maelstrom.

Ballou's mixing is best characterized in both parts of 'Sink Into Sin' (part 2 features Amenra vocalist Colin Eeckhout). He is able to keep it very heavy even if it's fast or slow and filled with well structured guitar layering.

Towards the end is where Maelstrom's weakness is exposed. After 20 minutes or so of consistent intensity, it seems to abruptly stop with the lacking "Glimpse of the Sun." If condensed and rewritten, it might have been a good listen. Following is the album-titled song that while is a good acoustic (with clean vocals) conclusion, it doesn't feel complimentary to the previous composition.

Fortunately, most of Maelstrom's songs are absolutely catchy and well-executed that you will probably listen to more in the future than the snag that exists on the record. If Oathbreaker can improve with a more intense and consistent followup, which Maelstrom somewhat signifies, they have a bright future ahead of them in the world of metal and hardcore music.



Oathbreaker "Mælstrøm" CD/LP/Digital by deathwishinc

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