OATH­BREAKER

Af­ter ful­fill­ing their prom­ise on stun­ning third al­bum Rheia, Bel­gian un­der­ground in­no­va­tors Oath­breaker are go­ing on hia­tus. Why are they stop­ping now, when their jour­ney’s only just be­gun?

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: STEPHEN HILL

Af­ter break­ing through with Rheia, are the Bel­gian hard­core crew about to throw their suc­cess away? Singer Caro Tanghe ex­plains it all.

“There are nights I have to scrape my­self off the floor” TO URING Rheia HAS TAKEN AN EMO­TIONAL TOLL

ON SINGER CARO TANGHE

The voice on the other end of the line is haunt­ing and del­i­cate, just as it is on record. When Oath­breaker singer Caro Tanghe speaks, she does so slowly and wist­fully, chew­ing ev­ery syl­la­ble be­fore it grace­fully floats from her mouth – un­til, that is, we ask her if she feels in­tim­i­dated by writ­ing a fol­low-up to the band’s lat­est al­bum, Rheia.

“Yes! It’s very in­tim­i­dat­ing,” she shoots back, be­fore set­tling back into her usual, more la­conic pace. “We made a record that I never thought we’d be able to make. But I be­lieve we have some­thing else in us. Maybe we never make an­other record like Rheia again, but we can still make some­thing beau­ti­ful, in­spir­ing...”

She trails off for a sec­ond, be­fore adding: “But I don’t know what that is.”

There’s a very good chance that, un­less you are an afi­cionado of Europe’s un­der­ground hard­core scene, the name Oath­breaker would not have meant any­thing to you this time last year. Formed just un­der a decade ago in Flan­ders, Bel­gium, the band showed enough prom­ise in their early years to ink a deal with Ja­cob Ban­non’s Death­wish la­bel and re­lease two de­cent black­ened hard­core al­bums. But de­spite Caro telling us his stamp of ap­proval was an in­cred­i­ble coup, Oath­breaker lacked the con­fi­dence to break from the hard­core scene’s many tropes.

“Those al­bums are good for what they are,” she tells us, “but we were just do­ing what we thought we had to do, rather than what we re­ally felt. It’s not a bad thing, but we lacked true con­fi­dence – we were al­ways de­fend­ing the bound­aries of what we did.”

With thou­sands of ex­cit­ing heavy bands vy­ing for your at­ten­tion in the mod­ern era, it seemed Oath­breaker were des­tined to join the ranks of metal’s many nearly men. No one, seem­ingly even the band them­selves, truly ex­pected any­thing out of the or­di­nary from them.

But then Rheia hap­pened.

Last Septem­ber, un­der­ground cir­cles be­gan mak­ing noises about the ar­rival of a spe­cial record. Those early mur­murs swelled to a crescendo via word of mouth, and now Rheia is al­ready rightly re­garded as one of the most unique, mov­ing, genre-defin­ing records of the mil­len­nium. A record that co­he­sively weaved to­gether folk, black metal, punk rock, ethe­real noise and raw, un­re­strained, emo­tion.

At the epi­cen­tre of it was Caro’s clas­si­cally trained voice. As equal parts soar­ing and

sub­lime as it was anguished, her as­ton­ish­ing de­liv­ery doc­u­mented a pre­vi­ously un­tapped well of re­pressed pain, trig­gered, as she tells us, by a con­ver­sa­tion with gui­tarist Gilles De­molder around the time of her grand­mother’s death from can­cer.

“I was in a re­ally low point in life,” she says. “I felt re­ally de­pressed; I didn’t know I was de­pressed, but I was tired and felt dis­con­nected from work­ing. But I didn’t want to give up; I was fight­ing my­self, ba­si­cally. My past re­la­tion­ships were all bull­shit and I didn’t have con­tact with my par­ents any­more. It was a re­ally un­sta­ble time for me.”

Gilles, her band­mate and friend of more than 15 years, en­cour­aged Caro to write down her feel­ings as he com­posed mu­sic on his acous­tic gui­tar.

“I wrote all of the lyrics from child­hood mem­o­ries,” she con­tin­ues. “There are re­ally emo­tional songs about past re­la­tion­ships, but most of it came from a very self-re­flec­tive place. I wanted to write about what I know about my­self, but also what peo­ple don’t know about me and what I didn’t re­alise about my­self. I tried to dig re­ally deep.”

It’s from this seed that Rheia grew, and, with the crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess that Oath­breaker are cur­rently en­joy­ing, it would be easy to end the story there – to paint the pic­ture of a band and a woman who have suc­ceeded de­spite ad­ver­sity and are now en­joy­ing the fruits of their labour. But this is no fairy­tale. Soon Oath­breaker were to tour this most per­sonal of records, and the demons on Rheia had to be re­lived ev­ery night.

“We’re very lucky to have been able to do this,” Caro says, “but there are some nights where I lit­er­ally have to scrape my­self up off of the floor and do what I have to do. Be­cause the emo­tional con­tent of this record is so real to me. Most of the time it’s very ex­haust­ing.”

Ex­haust­ing to the point where Caro is hon­est enough to tell us that there are times, to her ob­vi­ous shame, when she has tried to switch off from en­gag­ing with the mu­sic she is play­ing. “There are some nights where I can feel ev­ery­thing,” she says, her voice crack­ing. “You feel ev­ery word you are say­ing, but there are days where rou­tine takes over… it be­comes so unim­por­tant be­cause you do it ev­ery day.

Just a dif­fer­ent crowd in a dif­fer­ent city. Those nights I feel ter­ri­ble; it makes it feel like those things I wrote about aren’t real. I feel like a robot and I can’t even be­lieve a crowd can care about what we’re do­ing. But those other days when I do feel those things, it hurts so bad, but you ac­tu­ally feel like you’re alive.

So, I have to seek that out, or there is no point us be­ing up there. I want it to feel real, not su­per­fi­cial.”

Af­ter a year of strug­gling with this dy­namic, it’s no won­der that tour­ing life has taken its toll on Oath­breaker. The band re­cently posted on their Face­book page that, af­ter an up­com­ing run of UK dates, they will be tak­ing 2018 off, with no def­i­nite prom­ise of a re­turn.

“It’s some­thing that we needed to do,” sighs Caro. “It’s been very in­tense. On a per­sonal level we’ve all known each other for so long, but no one can pre­pare you for be­ing in such a small space to­gether for so long. For ex­am­ple, me and Gilles were to­gether and we broke up, and it’s been re­ally tough deal­ing with that. We still have to be in a van to­gether. The vibe in the band has to be good. We need to go away and have that space and then maybe come back… I don’t know, I can’t say at the mo­ment. I’m re­ally happy we can do those UK shows in De­cem­ber, and we might try writ­ing a new record, but I can’t say for sure.”

Caro is quick to point out that the in­di­vid­u­als in Oath­breaker will still be ac­tive. With mem­bers of Amenra in their ranks, the mu­si­cians that cre­ated the sonic can­vas for Rheia will still be bring­ing new mu­sic to the world.

“We all have other bands and side-projects to keep us go­ing,” she says, be­fore hes­i­tantly adding, “Well, ex­cept me… I may have a new project, but it’s still so early that it re­ally isn’t worth me talk­ing about it yet.”

In­stead, Caro will spend the next cou­ple of months in the United States, en­joy­ing life. This af­ter­noon she walked her boyfriend’s dog and ac­quired last-minute

NASCAR tick­ets, and tells us she looks for­ward to hav­ing time where she’s “just be­ing nor­mal”. But the spec­tre of Rheia still looms large over her life, prompt­ing us to re­visit the ques­tion we be­gan with: is it just too daunt­ing to con­sider mak­ing a suc­ces­sor to their cur­rent al­bum?

“There are so many other amaz­ing things I be­lieve we could achieve,” she says. “Maybe by us­ing elec­tronic mu­sic or be­ing re­ally quiet and melodic… but it’s too early to say right now. We might not ever even try… and that’s fine.”

Those UK shows may be just an­other chap­ter in the Oath­breaker story, or they may well be the full stop. Ei­ther way, you owe it to your­self to ex­pe­ri­ence them.

RHEIA IS OUT NOW VIA DEATH­WISH. OATH­BREAKER PLAY LO NDO N’S SCALA ON DE­CEM­BER 13

“WE MIGHT NEVER TRY TO MAKE A FOL­LOW-UP TO RHEIA”

BURNED OUT AND IN­TIM­I­DATED BY THE IDEA, OATH­BREAKER ARE TAK­ING TIME OFF

Oath­breaker (left to right): Gilles De­molder, Caro Tanghe,

Len­nart Bossu, Wim Cop­pers

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