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Oubliette - The Passage Award winner

The Passage
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 30 July 2018, 6:25 AM

This release is incredible.  I usually don’t start reviews out like that but there you go.  Oh sorry, I forgot to talk about who made this incredible album.  OUBLIETTE, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is a band that is relatively close to my neck of the woods, especially compared to most other bands I listen to/review.  As a fellow Tennessean, I am incredibly excited about such an awesome Black Metal band based in this state.  In the very rare moments I turn on my local radio, all I hear is bland hard rock bullshit; it is comforting to know there is still some talent left in the state. The cold, bleak, blackened sounds certainly sound European at times, as the band finds obvious influence in the heyday of Black Metal’s Norwegian emergence.

However, this band steps outside the box in a number of ways.  First, they have three guitarist and, trust me, they are used to their full promise and capabilities.  Not since modern day MAIDEN, have I heard a band pull off the use of three guitars so well. Mike Lowe, Todd Harris, and Andrew Wampler deserve and command respect for the blistering and melodic musical fretwork.    Listen to the last minute and half or so of “The Curse,” to witness for yourself.  The myriad mash of solos, melodies, and harmonies are so intricate and seamless; a feat almost unheard of in Black Metal.  In addition to searing Black Metal, they also throw in a lot of old school Melodic Death elements.

For a mental sound picture, think old school IN FLAMES, DARK TRANQUILLITY, and even some of the lesser known ones like GATES OF ISHTAR and CEREMONIAL OATH.  This doesn’t mean “The Passage” is filled with nothing but dueling melodies or counter harmonies but the use of clean, acoustic guitars and an atmosphere that contains a hopeful dawn.  The contrast between that and their raw intensity born from an underground darkness works so well to create a dichotomy of sounds. “Solitude,” begins with light rain fall and a bell to create a melancholic sound but also a foreboding sense of despair.   The first minutes of this track are classic Black Metal; a clear but raw production brings out Emily Lowe’s throaty growl/scream, a harrowing experience all by itself; I would put her vocals against anyone in the genre.  Halfway thru the track, it certainly stops and lets a brief melodic, clean passage work its way in before they go back to full speed, with drummer Greg Vance tearing up his bass kick with some truly speedy footwork.

The Passage,” is chock full of many moments like this where the band turns on a dime to mix up their aggression or approach.  All the elements in play with all the instruments are a constant force of perpetual motion that enables the album to be played straight thru without a moment of boredom creeping in.  The last two minutes of “Solitude,” are clean guitars, splashy atmospheric drums that speak as much volume as their more electric metal moments.  The song ends in a emotive and stark finale attack on the senses. Although most Black Metal bands didn’t get the memo, guitars should never only play tremolo riffs and, thankfully, OUBLIETTE seems to agree. “Elegy,” opens with actual, meaty riffs, and several melodic movements across the guitars that create a tapestry only three guitars could make.  This is probably my favorite song from the album and a full representation of what the band is all about.

The title track, “The Passage,” opens with furious drums and Emily’s searing vocals; the first four minutes or so are very immediate and the band plays with a fire so hot my headphones were smoking.  The melody comes in, like cold waves crashing against the shore of a hot beach. James Turk and his bass are the highlights here, a dark undercurrent that pushes everything to the surface.  More so than other sub genres, I find it very hard to often times pay attention to the bass in Black Metal but James makes it so enjoyable. OUBLIETTE and their second full length album ,”The Passage,” is a stirring example of how to make Black Metal break the confines of its limitations while still carrying the spark that made it so special in the first place.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. A Pale Innocence
2. The Curse
3. Solitude
4. Elegy
5. Emptiness
6. The Raven’s Lullaby
7. Barren
8. The Passage
Mike Low – Guitars
Emily Low – Vocals
Todd Harris – Guitars
Greg Vance -Drums
Andrew Wampler – Guitars
James Turk – Bass
Record Label: The Artisan Era


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