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The Reticent - The Oubliette CD (album) cover


The Reticent


Experimental/Post Metal

4.21 | 46 ratings

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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars With so many different new progressive metal bands coming out, often they start to sound the same, and while many of them are talented and deserve to be on the site, it is so hard to find those that are original, that stand out among the crowd and that know how to utilize the emotion that should be present in the music if they really want to rise above the crowd. But then, there always seems to be a few that come along each year with an album that can still make you go "Wow, where did that come from?".

I always seem to find about 3 progressive metal albums a year that seem to stand far and above the rest. This year, The Reticent's "The Oubliette" is one of those. This is one of those that, even if you don't like progressive metal, you should listen to before you pass judgement that it's just another prog metal clone. So, I'm going to start throwing names around now?..

Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Tool, Riverside, Isis. These are all bands that made their mark in the genre and stood out because, at the time, they knew how to utilize emotion. With all of the new prog metal bands out there, one tends to wonder, where is the next band that will take the prog metal world by storm instead of being a clone of one of these bands. I would dare say that The Reticent's new album is that album. Take all of the things that made the aforementioned bands stand out and then build on that with not only an influx of emotion and ingenuity, but with surprises that come out of left field plus things that build off of that, and you have The Reticent.

This band is centered around the music of Chris Hathcock. In fact, pretty much all of the instruments and vocals on the albums is done by him, except for certain rare instances. However, because of the huge demand for the band to perform live, there is a full line-up that does all of the touring and live shows. But this is much more that just your typical artist-recording-in-the-living-room type project. It has stellar and professional production, so don't concern yourself with that. Before this album, however, I had never really heard of the band, and to be honest, I haven't heard any of the project's other albums either. All I know is that this album is quite amazing, so much so, in fact, that it is one of my top 5 albums for 2020.

"The Oubiette" is a 100% concept album in every sense of the word. That's another big plus that it has going for it. It's theme is quite heavy though, that is, the story of Henry and his emotional journey into the 7 stages of Alzheimer's Disease. This is quite a personal subject for Chris Hathcock and you can definitely tell, that is why this album hits you as hard as it does. The emotion and feeling of loss is authentic here. The fact that it all takes place as through the mind of the individual instead of an outsider looking in even makes it that much more impactful. As you go further and deeper into each stage, the album gets more emotional and real.

Each track (there's 7 in all) represents a progressive stage in the main character's disease. There are outside voices (nurses, doctors, family, etc) that the protagonist hears along with other sounds, and it is noticeable how threatening they can be, even though some might be everyday sounds. The lyrics represent thoughts and incidents that happen. Chris' vocals in the beginning are quite easy to listen to, but even as the first song progresses, there are incidents of "growling, yelling" vocals, not much, just enough to put you at unease. Also, the music is quite good, moving from smooth to heavy, transitioning easily along, at first staying in a more "accessible" style. There are plenty of surprises thrown in everywhere, things you might not expect to hear from a "typical" progressive band, and that will keep you interested. I don't want to give away too many surprises thought, just expect sudden smooth passages that feature saxophone and the like. There are interesting rhythm passages in "The Captive", and even what begins as a quasi- ballad atmosphere, almost ambient, in "The Palliative Breath". You start to detect a feeling of things going "south" by the time you get into "The Dream", but you are still drawn in to the intrigue of the music. Up to this point, you've got a pretty good progressive metal band with occasional bursts of energy and whatnot.

Then you get to "The Nightmare". This is where the album enters "experimental" territory. I will warn you that this track gets quite loud by the end and there is a lot of "dirty" vocals throughout, but that is where this concept is leading, and it is carried out expertly, sucking you in slowly before you notice that all hell has broken loose. At the end of this track, I always feel out of breath. If you listen to the tracks all the way through, you'll know what I mean. You can't skip around this album and expect to get the same experience. The title track appears next, "The Oubliette". After the mind-melting climax of the previous track, this one comes at you quietly, yet that feeling of unease is there now more than ever. By now, you know you are in the sufferer's head, and it's sad and scary. Anyone that has experienced a loved one that has suffered from this disease will know as I did. It makes you want to cry for the individual because you can imagine this is how their head feels as the disease comes to it's fatal closing act. Yet, it is all so strangely beautiful as life's drama is so well enacted here. The last track isn't a title, it's just a flat line "________". The patient has fallen into dementia and you might expect a tech-heavy wall of sound, but that is not what you get. It's more of a sound of innocence of losing all coherency and memory. It's sad and it's scary. And it should convince us that there is so much we can still do for these poor souls that suffer this disease.

I've tried my best to explain why this album is as great as I say it is. Of course, others might not raise it so far up on a pedestal as I do, but I think this album and this project needs to be heard. It has mostly gone ignored in the Archives, but I hope that changes because I can definitely hear something different in this album, the type of thing that deserves to be recognized as being top-notch progressive music, in the same class as the bands I mentioned earlier, yet progressed to the next level. It is exciting to hear a band that is willing to stretch the boundaries of the genre as they do come along, but rarely. There are other bands that might not appeal to as many listeners, such as "Litany" or "Cryptic Ruse" that are quite excellent, but this is a project that might hit that sweet spot where people can access it and then discover the real strength of the music on their own. 5 stars for originality, progressiveness, emotional delivery and a realistic concept. Just about perfect!

TCat | 5/5 |


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