» Blog Archive Oubliette Offer One 2018's Best With 'The Passage' -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews

It was about one minute and thirty-eight seconds into this Oubliette album that I said “Oh boy.” Not in the condescending tone of “I can’t believe I’m gonna sit through this thing,” but rather “I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of this.” There’s something about the cutaway from melodic black metal to Alcest-like dreamscape guitars that says a lot about a band in the opening moments of their sophomore album, and it’s a hopeful plea that this intro isn’t all flash while the rest of the album is uninspired.

Oubliette is a melodic black metal act formed out of Tennessee, filling its ranks with some noteworthy members such as Mike Low from technical black metal beasts Inferi, as well as Greg Vance and James Turk from Enfold Darkness. Coming into Oubliette’s second studio album, The Passage, I’ve understandably got some expectations, as both acts they come from have proven time and again that they’ve a good grasp on their respective styles. Yet in a genre like melodic black metal, most bands come across as Dissection clones or melodic death metal bands who extensively use blast beats and minor chords. The inspiration isn’t there and there’s no intention to marry styles and sounds to create something unique.

I hesitated when clicking play, I will admit, but never have I been this wrong. The Passage is a delightfully melancholic and melodic affair that takes nods from many bands, yet comes out as its own unique beast. The album is well produced, exceptionally performed, damn-near perfectly paced, and holds up on multiple listens. There’s a lot to say and enjoy from Oubliette here, so bear with me as I try and do my best to say it all.

Split into two halves, grouped by instrumental segments, Oubliette don’t overstuff you with too much to digest in terms of material. Tracks run between 5 and 7 and a half minutes, and of the six with vocals, the band maneuver through six different aspects of their sound successfully. Closing track “The Passage” is among the album’s fastest, while “Solitude” is a tasteful and dynamic affair that carries you through the motions of the band’s entire sound. Vocalist Emily Lowe carries the songs in a constantly-aggressive manner. The build up to her entrance on the album, “A Pale Innocence” into “The Curse,” is miraculously done as the band have more than enough to prove themselves in these moments, only to add fire to the flame with a vocalist who holds her own. Think Alissa White-Gluz vocals from the diaphragm. My only suggestion to Emily would be to possibly try to whisper for that complete ghostly effect when the songs get noticibly quieter. A moment on “The Raven’s Lullaby” has her vocals drenched in reverb, yet I think whispering a la Insomnium would have just been ever so slightly more effective.

The production on this album absolutely astounds me, as it’s black metal where the bass is actually audible. This goes a long way, as the rhythm is never lost when guitars start to harmonize. Better yet, Oubliette us the bass to even carry melodies on the slower tracks on the album. Allowing each instrument to become a voice in the music carries it a long way, and it’s reasons like that where “The Raven’s Lullaby” and “Elegy” are allowed to soar and reach new heights. Mike Lowe and Andrew Wampler both command guitar melodies and flutter picking passages with grace, and their all-around tight performances give their lead parts the ability to stick out like they’re in a higher quality Deafheaven or Wolves in the Throne Room recording.

Aside from my one suggestion for vocals, the only nit-pick I really have for Oubliette is that “Barren” and the closing title track should have been swapped for dynamic purposes. The preceding track, “The Raven’s Lullaby” is one of the album’s highlights, but the somber tone carries into “Barren,” which is very similar in feel to its predecessor. While still unique, it’s like a kick in the ass when the title track comes in to close the album out. Yet there’s already been a dip in focus from the sleepy nature being present for 14 minutes by this time. Having “Barren” as the closer to the album and sending it out on an atmospheric note instead of a bombastic one would have helped the flow, but thankfully it doesn’t take away from the important part: how enjoyable this album is.

Oubliette have something really good with The Passage, and it’s great to see a band carving their own path in a genre where influences are proudly shown and often carbon copied. With tight writing and great production choices, The Passage is guaranteed to be a sleeper hit for not just black metal, but the greater genre as a whole. Black metal and its variations have been having a great year all around, and Oubliette are only raising the bar with it.

The Passage will be released on July 13th on The Artisan Era. You can pre-order it here and stream “The Raven’s Lullaby” below.

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