Hoth: Oathbreaker

Always give credit to self-released bands who put this much effort into it.  Hoth took the time to write a thorough promo sheet, including a frakkin sticker to sweeten the pot.  We've encountered them before, though Cole didn't like them very much, primarily because they're self-proclaimed Star Wars fanatics and he didn't like their, let's say, choice of direction.  Star Wars is risky business decision in metal because one, it's been done, and two, it's perceived by upper-level geeks as lower-level.  In the promo sheet for Oathbreaker, they make mention that their name is taken from the planet in "Episode IV," but it was actually in Episode V.  Are you guys really true fans?!!!  Anyway,  I, the editor, took a listen to their first release before moving onto this their latest and pretty much have to agree with Cole.  The listening was, however, completed after already thoroughly checking out Oathbreaker.  Oathbreaker is a concept album with each song building into the next in terms of theme.  Hoth isn't giving us much of what that theme is, saying "we want you to experience it for yourselves" on their Bandcamp page.  That can create any number of perceptions of the same thing, and sometimes it's nice to hear what they hope we get out of it as opposed to interposing our own interpretation.  Whatever the concept is was entirely lost through the listen, and we focused on the actual music.  But the dark, foreboding cover art and the bonus sticker was more than enough to let that pass.

  

Oathbreaker is a pretty massive work, running close to an hour, so there's a ton of material to experience.  Great thing, going with a little comparison to their first, is the production is stellar, totally space-worthy.  Hoth have mastered their format so the mechanical drums sound more organic, and the atmosphere is better developed to their overall vision of cold bleakness.  The cover says it all, and the music gives it flesh by which to live.  You have a wide variety of instruments used including piano and the general direction is one of the so-called blackened death, but with elements that almost have a science-fiction presence.  They even throw in a cool cathedral chant a little later.  Looking specifically at the riff action, the best way to compare them to something else would be practically any soundtrack for any game released by Capcom or Konami in the 1980s and early 1990s.  Oathbreaker has this almost Mega Man or Castlevania-esque feel to it (forgive us for those references), being that you can easily imagine any of the main hooks coming from some memorable 8-Bit platformer.  That gives it a unique feel, something you don't usually see in this kind of music, and honestly it makes for a very interesting listen.

 

But, Oathbreaker is also thankfully a relieving listen.  It's relieving because it works so well, generally.  Hoth has done an excellent job with momentum and tension via their structures, and their command of atmospheric presence is splendid.  As they say, and let us paraphrase, there honestly isn't a single filler track here and you can sense some sort of concept, you just may not really get what it is.  The song titles, going from "The Unholy Conception" and ending with "Despair," make it clear it's likely a failed-Messiah shtick, which is pretty typical for metal.  If true, that's more typical than the music makes it seem, because their sound could use something original.  Again, it's not entirely clear, merely our interpretation of it, which is why these guys would have done better to explain what in the Hell they meant.  However, that's a minor point.  The real issue is the atmosphere can, at times, be perceived as almost too immature because of its base sound; several moments make it sound less serious than it claims to be, due primarily to that 'video game' drive.  The vocals could also use some real dankness, because they generally approximate what you hear out of bands like Immortal or Skeletonwitch, and Hoth doesn't really do anything unique in this regard.  If they had, their more inventive sound would have a better atmosphere.  In comparison to their earlier work, Oathbreaker is by far the superior release, and it shows they'll likely lay claim to much greater things in the future.  Fill out that sound more through concept, develop more vocal variety, and also make the concept clear if you go that route again.  Also send more stickers.

 

Hoth Official Facebook

Written by Stanley Stepanic

Hoth: Oathbreaker
Self-Released
4 / 5