Oubliette – The Passage (2018) – Review

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Today I hunger for some truly dark metal. A tune to slake my thirst for the obscure, the unspeakable that dwells down in the fiery pit. The metal manifestation of all these unholy urges that sometimes try to besmirch your inner self. And still, Black Metal often is mana for the soul. The calming agent that – believe it or not – will quiet the screams inside you.

The Tennessee-based band Oubliette and their newest record The Passage turned out to be the perfect remedy for the RMR deck crew’s aches and pains. Their tune floated about the officescape for a while now. And for good reason.

Oubliette projects a precision that makes them stand out from the crowd, and there’s mighty competition in this genre. As the avid reader of this blog well knows of course. No loose ends are visible on this album, the riffs are crisp and concise. The drum work is outstandingly succinct. And – oh deliciously black cherry on the cake – Emily Low‘s growls really got on my good side. 

The Passage dispenses no traditional Black Metal, but a mix between Melodic Black Metal and its brethren in the Death Metal arena. Kind of a mid-tempo version of Stortregn, swirled with some Forteresse and a part or two of good ‘ol Insomnium and Geisterfels.

The intentions of the album make themselves clear straight away. No waltzing aimlessly about the musical landscape for no good reason or false pretense. A Pale Innocence steps right into this mighty black swamp with none of them silly intros other bands are so fond of. The razor-sharp riff immediately sets the tone for what is to come. Which – again – gets confirmation on the sophomore track The Curse.

That the frequent changes from fiery Black Metal to acoustics and other melodic elements on The Passage appear seamless is yet another proof of the pudding for a great production. Kudos go to Mike Low for mixing and Zak Denham of OneByOne studios for mastering.

Okay, you got the occasional escapee, like this short acoustic blurb in Solitude, where something undead scotched itself onto the track. Yet by and large, this release does not fear international competition. And we’ll even forgive them that this manifestation often gets pretty close to Inferi, Low’s alma mater.

Oubliette show no fear neither to encroach on roads that burned other bands almost to a cinder. The nod towards Myrkur on Elegy before it wanders off into Insomnium hunting grounds I found truly refreshing. If you remember, Amalie Bruun almost got skinned alive once she started to portray her version of Black Metal.

The sleek guitar work on The Passage really stands as the shining lighthouse, the guiding beacon for this album. This mid-tempo wizardry of some sort of an Arch Enemy-esque dimension never ceased to amaze me. That you don’t get any thematic fil-rouge, but some sort of kaleidoscopic approach to riffing only adds to the allure. Instead, Oubliette present a well-executed balancing act between soaring enthusiasm and waves of tearful dread. An oxymoron of sorts, if you will, but perfectly well portrayed on this record. 

So – to finalize – whoever said that acoustics and Black Metal could not co-exist? The Passage is precisely the kind of Melodic Black Metal the doctor ordered. Oubliette forged a piece of metal fusion, a melodic amalgam of Black and Death Metal of all facets. The record rides on a mid-tempo, almost doom-ish wave of metal power that needs not fear its faster-moving brethren.

The curious, almost German precision to their play – coming from Tennessee of all places – really adds cream and loads of black cherries to this decidedly metallic pie. And as sophomore albums go, the band plotted the right course to weather the numerous storms that often bedevil bands for their 2nd coming. ‘Tis a cool album and something the esteemed reader should definitely look at. 

The Passage is one of the surprises of 2018 and for sure will stand as a candidate for the 2018 Top 10 Records list. For now, at least. You’ll never know what comes next, right?

Ed’s note: The album made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome VIII and – drumroll – on the 2018 Top 10.

Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: The Artisan Era | Web: Facebook
Release date: 13 July 2018

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