Oubliette, an outfit drawing inspiration from acts including but not limited to Moonsorrow, Summoning, & Dissection, are an extreme metal ensemble consisting of members Emily Low (vocals), Mike Low (guitar), Todd Harris (guitar), Andrew Wampler (guitar), James Turk (bass), & last but certainly not least Greg Vance (drums). The Tennessee-based group released their very first full length album ‘Apparitions’ to the public in July of 2014, two years later following it up with single Solitude, their third & last release to date ‘The Passage’ is now the subject of our attention. To be released in just over a week’s time, ‘The Passage’ proves itself to be a not only competent but thoroughly impressive addition to their discography, and here is why…
The album begins with A Pale Innocence, this track is perfectly placed as the first thing you hear from ‘The Passage’ as it wastes no time in immersing you fully from the first few seconds, jumping right into a whirl of heavy beats & powerful melodic guitar work, it boasts mastery of the formidable, swaying into lulls of serene atmospheric periods and back. This is an entirely instrumental introduction to the collection, & one that grasps you from minute one.
Next we come to The Curse, where vocalist Low finally enters the picture with awe-inspiringly brutal harsh vocal work somewhere in-between that of black & death stylings. With the full band present we get a clearer insight of the band and the album’s full potential & where it is to go from here (spoilers, it gets better). Promptly following The Curse is the third track of the album Solitude, it begins with the ringing of what I’m assuming is a church bell accompanied by the sound of rain, setting the tone well for the rest of the song. Here the album takes a turn to a more progressive black place than before, not unlike the workings of Insomnium.
We then come to Elegy, showcasing a more rhythmic intro than earlier demonstrated, initially utilising honeyed soft clean backing vocals paired with an almost folk-like acoustic instrumental overlay. The song lures you in with these enchanting qualities soon doubling back to their more brutal form with hints of the aforementioned melodious qualities lingering to give the track an epic fullness. Such masterful layering of said traits is an accomplishment I shan’t gloss over, as it can be so easy to make such endeavours in virtuosity incredibly jarring or just not sound quite right, Oubliette I’m glad to say have blended between each vibe expertly.
Arriving now to the fifth track of the album we have Emptiness, a short insert, at just 49 seconds long, the instrumental piece embraces the acoustic feel teased with in the previous track, a short but sweet lead in to The Raven’s Lullaby. It would be quite easy to mistake these two songs as the same for the first bleeds harmoniously into the second much like a concept or storytelling album would (which I suppose it wouldn’t be a stretch to claim ‘The Passage’ is), as it continues uninterrupted from one to the other. The Raven’s Lullaby is another prime example of Oubliette having such a solid grasp on their identity within metal and knowing how to pull it off incorporating various textures & elements seamlessly.
The next two tracks are arguably the grandest on the album so far, are also both the last & longest insertions to the full-length. Barren leads in with a solemn euphonious choir intro ushered in with gentle guitar work as well as throwing some artful percussion into the mix, soon joined by a classic melodeath electric guitar solo insert. The first two & a half minutes of the track hold this aura, simultaneously holding the listener in suspense, at almost the three minutes mark we have Low return to blow us away with her unrelenting utterances. We then have title track The Passage offering a slightly different experience in comparison to it’s forerunner, adopting a far more traditionally black metal sound specifically in regards to guitar tone & speed, as well as making itself evident but a little less blatant in both vocal work & drum stylings. The Passage is yet another prime model of their skill level, especially for being a band not long into their career in years. The collaborative talent exhibited is an obvious proof of the mastery all musicians involved have of their chosen instruments, as any less than mastery would have made it almost impossible to have come up with an album such as ‘The Passage’.
My official opinion of ‘The Passage’ is one of intense admiration, it isn’t difficult for those venturing into the genre Oubliette have to fall flat in many areas of to compose maybe a few songs per album worth putting on repeat but I found myself captivated entirely by their entire works in this case which is nothing short of a commendable feat. The band have managed to find the perfect balance of moods, including power, sorrow, brutality, heroic grandeur & more into the collection without making it an overbearing mess, jarring or in any way unpleasantly contradictory in such ambition to showcase their ability to diversify their sound. I’d also like to add that it’s refreshing to see a band have so many evident inspirations to their sound but still be able to carve for themselves their own specific discernible identity regardless. I am beyond anxious to see what they come up with next, kudos Oubliette!
PRE-ORDER ‘THE PASSAGE’ VIA THE ARTISAN ERA HERE!