Oathbreaker at The Underworld Camden

Support: Svalbard
January 20, 2017 at The Underworld Camden
Promoter: Nightshift Promotions

The Underworld in Camden hosted a spectacular night of music on the 20th of January, but at the heart of it all was one woman proving herself to be one of the most skilled performers in music today. It’s great to see that at a time where millions of people around the world are protesting against sexism, misogyny and inequality within our society, that the underground music scene is once again here to offer us artists who can provide a voice to the voiceless; who can amplify the screams of the downtrodden so they cannot be ignored; who not only command attention but deservingly earn it.

I was probably the highest person at this gig, which I guess makes sense since this is the sort of metal gig where people drink responsibly and get fucked on adrenaline; it smelled like a metal gig and the crowd were definitely into screaming; in fact, it seemed that whenever someone wanted to convey something to one of the bands they would adopt this emotionless growl like some doe-eyed talent show contestant hoping their technique would attain them a spot on the grand stage. Although, what usually happened was that they were completely outdone by the artists, who I imagine talk and applaud and communicate in their own voice whilst expressing repressed emotions in this innate scream.

Svalbard were nice. I felt like a cloud passing through lightning or a knife through hot butter when they played; just heavy enough to soothe me, not heavy enough to be abrasive. It was good. Having never heard them before I’d happily watch them again. I think they’re probably stronger instrumentally at the moment as great as their co-vocalist frontwoman was, I still think something was missing there, especially with Oathbreaker set to headline. It’s like a fourteen year old saying “I hate my life, I’m so depressed” and a forty year old saying the same thing; the intent is there, but the gravity is still slowly descending. It’s as sadness is to misery or depression. Although, they were still vastly better than the average metal band or vocalist, it’s just that Oathbreaker are an insanely hard band to live up to…and just to clarify that’s not belittling metal, that’s belittling popular music copycatted by people with the artistic integrity of a pet rock; rock is also generally shit these days; as a general rule, if it doesn’t sound unique and it’s easy to classify it’s probably fucking terrible.

The lights went dead. And then on again and then off again and then on and off and on and off and no one knew what the fuck was going on, all we knew was that the anticipation was building. The lights went off a final time and Oathbreaker took to the stage. Caro Tanghe strode out with a matte of hair covering her face in a long maroon robe looking like some nightmarish druid; seemingly eight foot tall in front of me on the stage. I was in absolute fucking awe. She literally looked like she could snap mere mortals in half like pencils. Her presence dominated the entire show and her performance in the ’10:56 / Second Son of R’ music video was what had initially interested me in the band in the first place. To me, Caro is a great example of what music is all about; raw emotion. When affectation becomes involved and you start trying to be something you’re not, that is the point where you should fuck off and not ruin the idea of art for you to achieve some pretension at the expense of the audience. We don’t really use the word “poser” anymore but there’s so many impostors in music particularly, in metal, the idea that being “heavy” is being good leads to a lot of unqualified individuals pursuing a disingenuous goal; Caro’s vocals are something someone like that could never achieve because at times they are so earth-shatteringly raw that it feels like she is tearing apart at the seams.

‘Second Son of R.’ to me sounds like unadulterated horror, pain and suffering and it’s refreshing to hear someone else genuinely feel that way in this farce of a world we live in, but it’s especially great to hear a woman as this new epitomising voice of rage and despair in a time where women are still repressed, harassed and abused as part of a daily culture of old, white cis-men holding us all back and alpha male bravado affecting itself as anything, but the last refuge of an idiot with nothing but some elusive heritage to offer. If all you have is your nationality, your gender and your physical form, then you have nothing at all; these are not strengths or bragging points they’re arbitrary design features that encase an unfathomable amount of potential in everyone. Sorry, dear reader, I’m endlessly enraged by this bullshit alt-right, farce that Western society has become so pretty much everything I write these days descends into telling people to be decent and treat each other as they’d like to be treated because most people are just full of shit these days…which is why I like to go to gigs because it really helps to drown out the ignorance and insufferable selfishness and stupidity I witness in the outside world…

When I hear Caro scream, I hear someone who feels the same anger and disgust I feel with Western society, when I hear her sing I hear someone who hears the same sad song I feel in the pit of my stomach; like some birdsong of depression and anguish. As good as the rest of the band is at channelling frustration and displaying an enrapturing musical prowess, any other vocalist would likely ruin them. Caro embodies and imbues Oathbreaker with meaning, emotion and gravitas providing a credence, sincerity and backbone that few vocalist ever achieve for their bands.

*Note I missed the other support band/s as I thought I read that doors was actually at the time that Svalbard started…I also wrote this from memory with no additional research like all my other live reviews. I’m not a journalist, I’m a writer.

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