December 8, 2016 | Munich, DE | Feierwerk
Written & photographed by Ben Manzella (More Than Flashing Lights & Sound)
As I will express further in an eventual contribution to my 2016 list of favored records from this year, Oathbreaker have grown all the more to become one of my favorite current bands. While touring in support of their latest album, Rheia, which was released on September 30th through Deathwish Inc.; Oathbreaker have become a band at their peak strength creatively, with a third record touching on their familiar musical roots and introducing new ones, as well as welcoming drummer Wim Coppers (also in Rise and Fall, Wiegedood, White Jazz, etc.) into the lineup. The direct opening support of the tour lineup is WIFE, the electronic project of James Kelly (known from the black metal band, Altar of Plagues); I was particularly excited to see this lineup because of its clear diversity and the fact that I feel (unfortunately) confident that a lineup like this wouldn’t likely be booked, or at least wouldn’t be booked as easily in the U.S. After talking with both with James and Gilles (one of the guitarists of Oathbreaker), I found that even the crowds in some places hadn’t been open-minded enough for this lineup, but luckily it had even become humorous to a degree; James went so far as to apologizing for not being a metal band before doing the last song of his set.
Nonetheless, even after I already had the chance to see them play with regional support from The Rodeo Idiot Engine in Paris; I was excited to have another opportunity to see and hear both WIFE and Oathbreaker together. Additionally, released this past September was the Standard Nature EP, the latest material from WIFE – released through Profound Lore records, these 5 songs constituted James exploring some heavier musical elements while also reflecting on time spent as an environmental researcher. It’s interesting observing as James sings while also combining the various samples and sounds he has programmed to create songs such as “Glass Interruption”, where you are rhythmically knocked around by glitchy-sounding drums and simultaneously lured in by icy, synthesized keyboard notes; not to mention the beautiful layer his vocals become in the mix, almost as if they’re an additional instrument or component in and of themselves rather than a lingual element. I really look forward to seeing what else he has in store for the next LP release and recommend his music to anyone, but especially to those looking for a new approach to the electronic genre.
It seems at least for these initial tours, Oathbreaker have been playing most of the Rheia album live; and I can honestly say after seeing them twice, that the record sounds even better in a live atmosphere than it does on headphones or speakers. These songs are filled with personal accounts from singer Caro Tanghe, and the vulnerability hits you almost instantly. Whether she is utilizing clean vocals, whispering, or shrieking and clutching the microphone stand as she headbangs; the moment Caro takes the stage, she is in full control. Oathbreaker have expanded their sound with both Gilles and Lennart playing guitar, whereas Gilles was previously the bassist. I’m unsure of the name of their current bassist as well as if he’ll become a permanent member, but I really hope he will stick around. The band seems to have already locked in very well as a 5-piece lineup, whether they’re performing material from Rheia, Eros/Anteros, or Maelstrøm; which I am very happy to say they played “Glimpse of the Unseen” from their debut 2011 release, Maelstrøm as that is a favorite song of mine from their growing catalog.
With just 5 days left at the time of writing on this current tour, I think that 2016 is ending well both for WIFE and Oathbreaker respectively. Along with the corresponding shows, both bands were a part of the Incubate Festival lineup this year and I’m sure there will be plenty more in store for 2017. Oathbreaker have already announced a UK & Ireland tour to start 2017 on the 20th of January at The Underworld in London, and that run will end on the 29th in at The Exchange in Bristol; they also have two dates in Belgium, one of which is already sold out in Brussels on February 2nd, and then on the 24th at De Kreun in Kortrijk. So far, WIFE will be supporting Deafheaven alongside Chasms & Health in Los Angeles on January 12th, and then he will be headlining a show at the Moth Club in London on February 23rd; as we all know by now, many tours are announced daily so be on the lookout for further details as to what will be going on next year. Thanks to Stephanie Marlow for securing press access in order to document this show, as well as to James Kelly for putting me on the guestlist.