Disintegrate by OakRelease date: February 10, 2023
Label: Season Of Mist
It’s maybe a sign of the times and the wholesale memeification of culture that reading through the press release for Oak’s second full-length brings to mind images of Vince McMahon progressively freaking out with each sentence. A death-doom concept album? Featuring current and former members of Gaerea! It’s about a giant!? And the giant is narrating their own epic death!!? Mind. Blown. All hyperbole aside, Disintegrate does feel almost tailor-made for the doom crowd – the colossal scale, melancholy and misery are all hallmarks of the classics while the sense of timelessness that’s so deeply intertwined with its themes feels very much on-brand for a genre so primordial in nature. In the capable hands of Guilherme Henriques and Pedro Soares, this album that promises so much delivers on every count and still leaves the listener yearning for more.
Consisting of a single 44-minute long song spread across a series of movements that list and roll with the pace of a birthing glacier, the first impression of Disintegrate is that it is an unmistakeable beautiful album. Henriques’ melodies are deliberate and slow to unfold, every note piercing the gloom and given the room to breathe and swell before transitioning; when his voice enters, he has a cavernous roar that does feel like that of a giant. It’s laden with age and the misery that brings, tapping into an ancient earthen force, yet the melodies sparkle with the same subtlety as before. If this is a record that should be steeped in clichés, it hides its hand well, never really going with the expected yet still providing the emotional heft required of it.
Soares’s drumming lends itself well to the drama, likewise taking a very measured and deliberate pace and imbuing most of his hits with audible force but capable of displaying a lightness of touch when the songs dips into another soft, languorous lull. His grasp of tempo is as impeccable as anyone could hope, matching Henriques’ lumbering pace while dropping the odd savage double-kick battery or flurry of blastbeats with enough frequency that the listener can never let themselves become complacent. It’s a huge component of why the narrative of this record is so compelling, preventing it from being simply an exercise in misery and instead a rich and involving listen, one with mystery woven tightly into the fabric of its sound.
One issue with single-track albums is that it can sometimes be difficult to find the passages that truly stand out but Disintegrate does circumvent this with a handful of well-placed moments that don’t just stir things up with rather invert them completely. At halfway through, the record drops into silence and the whole experience seems fraught with tension. The knowledge that only half the album has elapsed already primes the listener for something huge and when Soares and Henriques return, they do so with a renewed vigour that feels like a different band. The riffs take on more of a swing and vibrancy, the blastbeats hit with a pinch more venom and Henriques’ vocals have a furious tone to match. Hints of black metal creep in, not just in tempo but also in atmosphere, and it adds yet another layer to an already rich serving. Though this is the most pronounced leap, this record is filled with these moments, each executed with the same precision and subtlety as the last.
Oak have stated that their music comes from riffs that never quite fit in with Gaerea and were instead jammed and developed over the past few years. Disintegrate shows the fluidity that’s expected of a jam band and both its players have a very real, effective chemistry working for them, but it’s also much more than that. It’s a record that is calculating in its pace and execution, demonstrating the time that has obviously gone into its composition, and in return it demands that attention of the listener. It belongs with time set aside just for it. Do that, let yourself sink into its world of decaying giants and gargantuan loss, and you’ll find a modern classic waiting there for you.