[Heaven and Hell Records, 2020]
Intro: Meletis Doulgergoglou
The Reticent from North Carolina, USA is a special case as it is the one-man band of the extremely talented and relatively little-known Chris Hathcock who does pretty much everything; he sings, he plays all instruments, and also does the production (he’s accompanied by session musicians in concerts). From 2008 to date, Chris Hathcock has made 4 albums. His releases are solitary journeys adorned with inner quests, the expression of the canvas of negative emotions, but also love. This progressive project caught the attention of many with the forerunner of The Oubliette, titled On the Eve of a Goodbye (2016). The next step that The Oubliette aspires to achieve is the establishment of Chris Hathcock in the closed club of diverse musicians, and as you will read below, he has good chances to achieve this.
A soul deposit for those who experience their personal nightmare
Usually you don’t start a review with the lyrical theme, but in this case it is important to emphasize that this is a concept album centered on a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s neurodegenerative disease. Although there’s a plethora of prog metal concept albums and usually I don’t expect much, in this case I must congratulate Hatchcock, because he dives into a delicate issue that is unknown to most people in terms of the severity and anxiety experienced by these patients. In addition to pleasing the ears, music must also stimulate the brain. The Oubliette achieves all these key points.
Initially, I was reminded of the masterpiece Operation: Mindcrime, due the narration of the protagonist’s story (Henry) and his situation in a hospital. The similarities, however, are only in the setting. Musically, it’s mainly progressive metal with rich instrumentation and the almost established now double vocals, clean and brutal. The brutal vocals represent the confusion and pain that Henry’s deteriorating brain experiences. As a pure nostalgic for the Opeth prog death era, I have to say that many parts are heavily influenced by Blackwater Park. The changes, the atmosphere and the riffs pay tribute to the Swedes. Fortunately, we hear a lot more than that here.
The compositions are extremely mature and multifaceted while the addition of saxophone, jazz aesthetics and some unconventional percussion sculpt the progressive character of this release. The effect of the modern trend is evident in the roughness that is employed mainly to convey Henry’s stress and experiences. But the most important thing in a record is to make you listen to it again and again, and discover what was originally missed. In this regard, The Oubliette succeeds masterfully. The narrative interludes (which are included in the compositions) allow you to relax but also prepare you for the next composition having assimilated the previous one. The listener’s emotions pulsate due to the fragile and the most aggressive and dark vocals which are both effective but not really impressive. Due attention has been paid to the unfolding of the story which is really sad and makes you feel compassion for the protagonist, something that proves the indisputable connection of the music with the concept and the consequent aesthetic effects. The compositions are long, averaging 9-10 minutes and technically, everything is perfectly played. Although it is ideal to hear all the pieces in a row as they are integral parts of the puzzle, I will personally single out Stage 5-The Nightmare which is the longest, the most aggressive and most epic, with riffs out of icy Scandinavian landscapes.
However, in my opinion the production is not ideal, and there are some repeated parts, but fortunately these are minor mistakes. The music is very interesting and although it is not innovative enough to be characterized as a masterpiece, it is the most pleasant surprise in 2020, characterized by what is missing in today’s prog metal: lyrical and musical depth, sincerity and freshness. I cannot judge if The Oubliette can be played live just as convincingly, but it can certainly be played many times through our speakers. In summary, although reticent is the one who has difficulty expressing his feelings, Hathcock was able to sensitize the listener through Henry’s gloomy journey, and give us a truly remarkable record.
8.5 / 10
What makes us human? What is it that keeps us in touch with the world and determines our view of it, if not the memory of the people we love and the memory of the good and bad moments of our lives? The fourth album of The Recitent is about the situation in which Alzheimer’s disease progresses in 7 progressively heavy stages (which are the songs on the album) to finally erasing the sufferer’s memory.
The band – that is, Chris Hathcock who takes over all the instruments – based on the influence of Opeth (their metal period) adds several elements to progressive metal, such as jazz, black metal, clean vocals that alternate with death metal vocals, employed in the narrative of a man, Henry, who becomes a victim of memory loss. An extremely dramatic narrative with him facing a world that he can no longer recognize.
The drama in is very emotional concept translates into extreme changes in sound reminding us of genius bands such as Maudlin of the Well. The album has a genuinely progressive spirit, not very original, but able to describe such a special and at the same time ordinary human condition. Musically promising and demanding, The Oubliette is a very good record of heavy progressive music.
8 / 10