The Reticent likes themes. Big, thorny themes. And even larger emotions, about problems and issues that not many musicians like to tackle.
After all, there’s no mainstream or glittery fame to gain in all this. No snazzy rockstar perks beckon you just around the corner. Just hard, emotionally draining music creation that peddles to a decidedly limited audience.
The Reticent‘s last album On the Eve of a Goodbye was all about suicide, projected on a pretty stellar platform of outstanding Progressive Metal and genuine anguish. This record practically oozed emotion so realistic, it actually served as this ‘fil-rouge’ that is so important to the success of any concept album. And thus made it to rank #2 on our 2016 Richter Scale.
And these are mighty big shoes to fill for any new record.
Already the name of the new piece, The Oubliette1), charts the course to hit the storyline straight on. This time Chris Hathcock dives into Alzheimer’s, this prison of the mind. Decidedly not the easiest subject, but one that already crossed his path once in his life.
Now, if you look for a different framework, a change in structure and taste, then this record ain’t for you. In essence, The Reticent projected a new motive onto a time-tested architecture. An almost psychedelic patchwork quilt of Progressive Rock and Metal, raw sensations, and sentiments. A piece of work that caught my breath in my throat more than once nonetheless.
In many ways, The Oubliette resembles the progressive approach of Haken‘s latest offering. With The Reticent‘s typical emotional icing and those enraged growls as an added bonus. A style that also syncs well with stuff Steven Wilson performed, before the pop bug bit him2).
Being a true multi-instrumentalist, Hathcock recorded – once again – all tracks by himself. With the exception of guitar solos, female vocals3), and the sad, haunting sounds of the saxophone. And not to forget the string ensemble for good measure and ambiance.
The record uses whatever style suits the narrative best – and the level of emotions, of course. Progressive and Alternative Metal furnish the framework. But you’ll get Death and Black Metal for aggression and despair, some sort of African drum work for violence, dance music, and some a type of swing going jazz-rock for memories, I guess. Add to that some reflective, ambient moments expressed with instruments like the saxophone.
And you know what? The Reticent did it again.
The Oubliette – being a true concept album – follows the 7 stages of Alzheimer’s. And – by that same token – tries to portray the emotions of the afflicted. In a way, this record is like one of those deep, dark, gleamy chocolate cakes. The ones that look at you with ominous malevolence, just before the evil clown jumps out. This thing is so full of psychological horrors and innuendo that – after a few listens – you start getting the jitters. Not because of the clown, of course, but because all of that has the ring of truth to it. And worse, the disease could hit you, too. Because there’s no defense.
However, the melodies and sounds only serve the narrative they nourish. This tendency to add a special tune, ditty, monologue, or style to any one of those complex emotions quickly leads to saturation. In fact, the album seems – at times – more focused on musical expression to serve the storyline than on proper creation of some coherent musical framework.
Yet, none of the critical lines above will take away from the outstanding musicianship. This almost eerie knack to hit just the right tone to serve the lyrics and concept through some pretty awesome Progressive Metal and a score of other styles.
This turns The Oubliette into yet another pretty extraordinary and truly convincing, yet – at the same time – scary concept album. One that we found difficult to stomach at times, it is heavy fare after all.
But then, we never expected anything easily digestible from The Reticent, now did we?