Certain images come to mind when you think of dark, heavy, doom-laden metal. None of those involve two blonde women tapping into the seedy side of music for their inspirations. We've come to be conditioned to think of certain people in certain roles, and there's a disconnect that occurs when our conventional wisdom is breached. It can be uncomfortable, and it often leads us to second-guessing in times we normally wouldn't be prone to such things, but it can also open our minds to new possibilities. The Oath is a band that exists on this premise, two women laughing in the face of what we expect from our metal. They don't fit the mold, and that's only the beginning of the tale.
From the opening chords of “All Must Die”, two things are abundantly clear; The Oath know their way around a riff, and their sound feels like is was pulled straight out of the late 70's. Plenty of bands have been replicating the sonics of that era, but The Oath isn't interested in a gimmick. The raw wash of guitars aren't a conscious decision, they reflect the attitude of the music. They are able to capture the spirit of the time through their songwriting, which is spiraling and garage-band in the best way.
Guitarist Linnea Olsson and vocalist Johanna Sadonis make a potent combination, two artists who have taken the best elements of punk and doom metal, and fused them together in a way that doesn't fall into the traps both are prone to. A song like “All Must Die” has moments of punk fury, slows to a doom crawl, and has moments of wailing vocals that wouldn't have been out of place on an early Trouble record. That mixture of sounds, within the confines of a single sound, is the best thing The Oath has going for them. Unlike so many bands who have 'doom' attached to their sound, they let the music ebb and flow, building more complex structures than simple funereal dirges.
As the album moves along, the songs dig their claws in, with subtle bits of melody atop the riffs that become progressively harder to ignore. There's nary a hint of pop in these nine songs, but they find a way to stick in your head without you even thinking about it, the way that the best of Tony Iommi's riffs are able to. Olsson doesn't share much of Iommi's sound, but she is clearly cut from the same cloth, writing riffs that are hard to forget.
The only place where the album falters is with the ballad “Leaving Together”, which isn't a bad song, but never feels like it takes off. It stretches on for six minutes, but there isn't a payoff for the build. It's the sort of song that is perfectly pleasant, but you wonder why different choices weren't made. The same can't be said for the bulk of the album, which features song after song that manages to balance on the edge between hooky and heavy. Hearing a chorus like in “Black Rainbow” makes me wonder why it's so rare for a heavy band to be able to tap into that kind of immediate songwriting.
The Oath is one of the few vintage-inspired bands that has managed to capture the essence of the past, which puts them a step ahead of the rest. There's still room for improvement in their execution, there's an honesty to the music that is endearing enough to look beyond the flaws. In what I will call a shame, the band announced just yesterday that they have ended, as their debut album could have been the start of a very promising career. That being said, the fact that “The Oath” will apparently be a one-off doesn't detract from its charms. I still highly recommend checking it out.