Monday, May 26, 2014

Hoth - Oathbreaker

Some bands defy genres to create a sound that may not fit into a certain box and there seems to be some controversy over the genre and lyrical themes of Seattle's Hoth. Yes, their name is the ice planet from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Yes, their new album, Oathbreaker, is a concept album that could be the tale of the life of Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader). Yes, their name is also the modern Anglicized version of the ancient Norse god Höðr and their lyrics do fit a certain fallen heroes theme. But there is enough ambiguity there to let these things be decided by the listener. Some say their music is melodic death metal when others say it could be melodic black metal. Once again, let the listener be the judge.

Instead of focusing on all these things that, in the end, do not matter I will focus on what does matter...the music. This band plays epic metal that is spellbinding and, at times, entrancing. I think they have a more epic melodic black metal sound to them with a bit of folk in there as well. The songs on this album are more like compositions and are long in length with many different dimensions. Going from blasting riffs and beats to softer, acoustic passages this band takes you on a journey with the music and their lyrics putting you right there as if you could visualize the story being told. The musicianship here is incredible and the songwriting is just amazing. The band is just a duo and the line up is even ambiguous as it just says Eric Peters and David Dees with nothing telling you who plays what. This only adds to the mystery of this epic band and makes them even more intriguing. Listening to this album, you do get a cold, almost frozen vibe to the music as well as the story being told here.

"The Unholy Conception" starts things off here and there is no shortage of riffs and melodies going on here. Part speedy and blasting with an acoustic part in the middle this song is all epic as it starts the journey off on the right foot. The vocals have a black metal sound and compliment the music well. "A Blighted Hope" is actually a little more than half acoustic but when the riffs kick in you can feel yourself becoming part of the story here. Blasting riffs along with some keyboards to provide a beautiful melody within all of the cold and grimness. It's one of the shorter tracks on the album it's no less epic than the rest. Then you have a song like "Acolyte of the Tenebrous Night" that is all business in the riffing and blasting. The song has that lead riffing that reminds me of Windir, with the keys just slightly there to provide the atmosphere but not to drive the songs. If I had to pick one song to be a favorite, it would be this one. However, this is not a "song" album because if you take any song away or add anything to it, the feeling would not be there. This album must be wholly consumed to be able to totally appreciate what's going on here.

If the album thus far doesn't tell you that this band defies genres, then "Unending Power" will seal the deal. This song is all over the place starting off with killer thrash riffs and low guttural death growls to the slower part in the middle that reminds me of Opeth in a way. Then it gets progressive with the riffs playing to some odd time signatures then going balls out into just sheer ass kicking blasting. The songwriting is so good that even though there is a lot going on, the band is not overreaching nor sounding pretentious. They are just that amazing. The album closer and longest song on the album, "Despair" again shows what this band is made of. Clocking in at just under nine minutes you can tell this is the climax of the album. Going further than to fuse several sounds into one song, it appears to end in the middle only to begin again as a slightly psychedelic outro for the remaining two and half minutes or so. What a perfect way to end this brilliant and amazing album.

So at the end of the day, all that really matters is the music. Trying to pick this album and this band apart to pigeonhole them into a specific category is useless. The only category you could give to this album is amazing. From beginning to end this album is the epitome of what an epic metal concept album should be. The sounds create the mood for the story that's being told here. Get this album, plug in your headphones, put it on and let it take you away. You will not regret it.


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