The Oath

The Oath

Written by: EW on 14/03/2014 23:05:20

If a label could be awarded a gold medal for putting an artist in the eyesight of their target audience then Rise Above should climb aboard the podium now. The Oath have been gathering plenty of column inches recently before their self-titled debut album has even come out, but with a cursory glance at the band and a quick listen it's not hard to understand why. In the 44 minutes of this smokey riff-filled opus, the duo that form the key part of The Oath (named after the Mercyful Fate LP "Don't Break the Oath") rock out with a dirty, subterranean vibe recalling some of the recent heritage rock big guns, a very worthy 'occult' vibe and a barrage of optimistic, groovy swagger.

Through multiple listens to tracks like "All Must Die" and "Night Child" I had built up in my mind's eye an image of vocalist Johanna Sadonis powerfully bestriding the mic stand, rumbling out the bass notes in a very Lemmy-esque manner, all through the grit and confidence of their performance. So I'm a little disappointed to have read further into the band to discover Sadonis and Linnéa Olsson handle vocals and guitar respectively, with the brooding bass being handled by Kadavar's Simon Bouteloup and one Andrew Prestridge on drums, making it not quite the all-female band one believes from the press, and well, that cover above. Formed following Olsson's relocation from Sweden to the more happening Berlin, "The Oath" is a remarkably confident record for the debut release of the band and while there are certainly rough edges to be found, the goodwill generated by the majority of the record will hold the band in good stead in a field headed by their biggest-soundalike, In Solitude.

At first though we get a strong dose of Anvil in opener "All Must Die", one of the tracks that leans most on the 'heavy' side of the heavy/doom fence upon which they straddle. The song's structure is quickly revealed to be nothing too revolutionary, but I'm finding myself impressed with how Sadonis' vocal patterns weave in excellently among the driving 4-bar rhythm. As the song breaks itself down before a gradual rebuilding for an energetic closing the uncluttered, minimalist production employed is laid bare, devoid of apology or shame as the band make good use of the freedom each instrument has in the mix to let the full power of their Iommi-schooled riffing ring true. Just take the bassy opening to "Silk Road" or "Black Rainbow"'s NWOBHM tendencies and drink in the fantastic tones being favoured - I've no doubt a fuller, meatier production would have sucked the raw, live feel out of the record. Yes, that technique reveals small inadequacies when some of the softer moments fall short in maintaining the brooding occult tone elsewhere but as a lesser of two evils I know which I'd rather have.

Despite the commendable performances of Bouteloup and Prestridge this really is a fight for your listening attention from Sadonis and Olsson who both display commendable intuition in the art of performing at different tempos and with ever-evolving passions for an outcome which has kept me intrigued over a number of listens now. Chilling out in "Psalm 7" and parts of "Leaving Together" serves to emphasise that when the time is right, The Oath are the owners of some of the best rocking riffs you're likely to hear this year. Results like these highlight the bands in this style who just possess the knack of writing catchy, honest songs with no pretences given to the exploitation of current trends. While there is no doubt The Oath reside in the 'heritage/occult rock' camp, thanks mainly to the raw, warm production job, the songwriting and bleeding personality easily ensures these ladies are sitting comfortably in the pack for when the inevitable culling of the herd commences in the near future.

Download: Night Child, Black Rainbow
For The Fans Of: In Solitude, Danzig, Angel Witch
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.04.2014
Rise Above Records

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