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The Reticent - Oubliette Award winner

The Reticent
Oubliette
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 18 September 2020, 7:15 AM

“The Oubliette” is a Progressive Metal concept album focused on Alzheimer’s disease. The album follows the journey of an old man named Henry (based upon a relative of songwriter Chris Hathcock) as he descends through the seven stages of Alzheimer’s. He doesn’t know where he is or why he’s there. He doesn’t remember his wife is dead. He doesn’t recognize his son. Step by step the disease takes his memories, his ability to speak, his ability to walk, his ability to breathe. The concept album contains seven tracks.

“His Name is Henry” opens the album. A woman is trying to get Henry to speak. Clean, melancholic guitars combine with alluring clean vocals. Drums usher in a darker sound, as the guitars pick up. The vocals turn harsh, and the song angry. Reminding me of OPETH in the sense of how the chords progress, and usage of both clean and harsh vocals, the sound here is dark and commanding. But, there are also sounds of hope, as you would often have in the early stages of an Alzheimer’s patient. The keys passage is old school, and almost sounds jazzy. Angry, incensed vocals enter, complete with a dexterous guitar solo, and then the previous sound returns.

“The Captive” opens with what sounds like a marching band drum section, chugging away with precision. Then the main riff drops, and it’s heavy and aggressive. The Progressive elements come though strong here. It feels like the band is just throwing caution to the wind when it comes to the meter shifting, but Chris has tight control of everything. A harsh vocal passage is followed by a calmer and relaxing passage, with sax notes. The angry sound returns again. “The Palliative Breath” opens with Henry’s daughter asking him who she is. At first, clean guitars and soft vocals bring a sense of peace. About three minutes in, a guitar solo brings the main sound in with it. A soft, pensive passage comes into play, where he recalls some memories, and deals with frustration of this awful disease.

“The Dream” is close to 12-minutes in length. Eerie lead guitar notes hop up on a bed of clean guitars, with a bit of a sinister edge. It isn’t until the four-minute mark until the main sound of the song gets established. Short, staccato rhythm guitars combine with whirling leads in an interlude, with bass and keys to follow. It’s both pretty and deadly at the same time. It picks up towards the end, with vocal harmonies. “Please don’t leave me alone” and “falling, falling down” he croons. “The Nightmare” is over 12-minutes in length. As you can imagine, this is the feeling of being awake inside a comatose body. Guitars attack hard and the vocals are angry and raging. A full on symphony takes root in the background. From there, clean vocal harmonies are followed by a harsh vocal passage that exudes anger and frustration. The guitar work around the half-way work is tight and choppy. This song runs the gamut between many various emotions.

“The Oubliette” is a secret dungeon with a trap door in the ceiling. At this point in the journey, the Alzheimer’s family is probably feeling like that is where Henry is. Piano notes open this song, with elements of depression and dejection in the guitars. Clean vocals lead to a little guitar interlude, but you know what is coming. Anger, followed by despair, and harsh vocals take it to completion. “Please, let me out” he screams. “_______” closes the album. You are back at the hospital again, and can hear the machines slow beeps. At this point, despair sets in, and you can hear that reflected in the music. It swells and then wanes, with a long fade-out, with some statistics on Alzheimer’s added in.

Overall, it’s clear that this is a very personal story from Chris Hathcock. He poured his heart and soul into the concept, and the way the tracks flowed, the story is very real and vivid. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, because it mostly affects the patient’s loved ones more than the patient himself. It’s a long process of slowly letting go, until the disease claims another victim. This process is carefully matriculated through music here, and it’s something all fans of music will want to experience. Especially considering the number of us who have been affected in one way or another by this ravaging disease.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Stage 1 – His Name is Henry
2. Stage 2 – The Captive
3. Stage 3 – The Palliative Breath
4. Stage 4 – The Dream
5. Stage 5 – The Nightmare
6. Stage 6 – The Oubliette
7. Stage 7 - ________
Lineup:
Chris Hathcock – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Drums, Vocals, Additional Percussion
James Nelson – Lead Guitars
Record Label: Heaven and Hell Records
     


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