How many metal albums by Korean bands do you own? Or better yet, how many Korean metal bands do you know? I honestly wasn’t ashamed to answer “none” to either of the above. This made listening to Oathean Fading Away into the Grave of Nothingness a progressively evolving experience. I was going from “they make metal in Korea too?” to “amateur, but not bad in spots” to “hmm, I might actually enjoy some of it”.
I could tell you this is Oathean’s 3rd release, and if somebody owns the previous two, I’d bow to you for your desire to acquire little known metal albums. It might not even help you if I told you Oathean used to be known as Odin, as I am still sure the previous demos and albums weren’t sold much outside of Korea. With Fading Away into the Grave of Nothingness the band’s fortune should change, as they have signed with The End Records, which will allow them to receive proper promotion in the US. If the album stunk, of course, nothing would have helped. Fortunately, it is not the case and the fans of melodic death/atmospheric black metal will be pleased.
Quick synthesizer wind & mystic bells intro out of the way, the band starts Wandering Soul the way Arch Enemy starts Wages of Sin, with the riff to be remembered. Amott brothers still reigning supreme in that department, Oathean then proceeds to unleash a very listenable, catchy, Gothenburg inspired and thrash infused brand of melodic death metal. Guitars duel in an obligatory harmonic fashion and Oathean guitarists are not too shabby with their leads. The “twist”, if you can call it that, is Do-Su Kim’s vocals are blackened rasp, not growls, and Hye-Ryung Koo is very much upfront with her piercing keyboard lines. If the sum of parts sounds familiar to you, melodic death metal with blackened vocals awash in keyboards, it did so to me as well. Yes, Skyfire really came to mind while I was listening to Wandering Soul.
In their “tour” of Scandinavia Oathean visit a few, somewhat unrelated, places. After Dark Tranquillity inspired opening of The Origin, for two and half tracks the band switches to become an atmospheric black metal entity, very reminiscent of Finnish artists Catamenia, Throes of Dawn and Dawn of Relic. This is what was apparently in Oathean past and they are not willing to part with it either. Lots of atmospheric synth covers up the incessant fast drumming with guitars leaning heavily on the tremolo in A Life of Suffering Craving the Darkness and Voice of My Soul. A Life of Suffering Craving the Darkness even has Norwegian edge with its rawer production and obscure melodies. Beyond the Memories I Lost brings Oathean back into the Gothenburg realm.
Scent of Longing is a piano driven ballad with pleasant female vocals in Korean (!) that all of a sudden goes doom with the male grunts borrowing from My Dying Bride. Road to … is the most unusual closer as this instrumental features what certainly must be a native Korean wind instrument similar to flute or bagpipe. With this instrument bending just about every note, it takes some getting used to not to think the whole melody is off key.
While all the comparisons I have made so far are legitimate, Oathean still sounds original, because of their abundance of Far East folk melodies. Delivered in the form of excellent guitar leads or over-the-top keyboards these melodies stand out, etch in one’s memory and surely would be one of the reasons which brings the listener back.
Not everything is top shape with Fading Away into the Grave of Nothingness. Two “bonus” tracks really add nothing, and actually subtract more than they add. Terrible raw black metal live track and The Money from the Tobacco Pouch really sound anticlimactic after Road to…
Band’s drumming and overall production are bigger problems. Drummer Woon Kim must be having a dual personality disorder. On atmospheric black metal tracks his blastbeat comes through nicely. However, on Wandering Soul when he attempts to blast the whole band has to slow down so he can catch up. The opening of From the Depths of Despair is the worst stumbling-bumbling moment of his performance. Just let this guy go straight with the tempo and don’t ask him to do stop’n’gos.
With all due respect to Jusin Productions they are not doing Oathean any favors. The bass drum sound is plastic and not natural. At times guitars are dropped way down in the mix, so the only sounds you hear are this same plastic drum, synth lines and vocal rasps.
Oathean are certainly not devoid of talent, and with their unique Korean disposition they could provide a new wrinkle in the genre. They would be well served if they tighten up their rhythm section and try to get into a studio in Scandinavia, not only to experience their influences firsthand, but also to secure services of some producer like Fredrick Nordstrom or Anssi Kippu. A few years ago Mexicans Buried Dreams made leapfrog from their first to their second album just by producing it at Studio Fredman. Of course, to get there Oathean needs to have a budget which can only come from selling a boatload of CDs. I encourage you to be one of those contributing to this boatload. You will help a talented band and in the process enjoy the album.
Killing Songs :
Wandering Soul, Voice of My Soul
|Alex quoted 66 / 100|
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