[Reviewed by stark]
Oakeater is a trio coming from Chicago, and frankly I expected some doom / sludge metal or something similar. I don’t know, perhaps it was the name of the band and the album title that aroused these associations. Meanwhile only the use of guitar here and there functions as the connecting element (the guitar itself, as an instrument, not the way they use it) – besides that Oakeater presents a kind of ritual yet experimental and dark sound, which reminds me of the Finnish label Aural Hypnox, if they didn’t show such an aversion to modern means of expression, powered by electricity.
On “Aquarius”, the band’s second full album – the first one was “Molech”, released in 2008 through the effort of Nihilist Records – Oakeater teleports the listener from some parking square at a steel mill on the outskirts of Chicago to the Northern forests, to a ceremony in honor of Mother Nature, celebrating its power and awe. You know, a bonfire, naked women and hooded silhouettes standing against the flames, swinging silently as if in a narcotic trance. And a dull murmur coming from a distance, so that its source can’t be determined. And maybe it would be best not to think about it.
Because this album is constructed exactly of such grim dark ambient backgrounds which, depending on the track (there are six of them), are inlaid with more or less dynamic, mantric rhythms, lingering sounds of horns played to the stars by intoxicated nameless characters, insane, black metal vocals and sounds of completely unknown origin. The compositions oscillate between 5 – 8 minutes (excluding the two minute long “Hatchet”) and the musicians rather neatly solve the problem of tension and manipulation of the listener’s attention, even though the musical structures are built on the basis of ritual loops gradually enriched by further sounds straight from hell. This effect is most striking in the title track, “Aquarius”, probably the most dynamic piece, wrapped with wailing guitars and voice offerings of a man who tears his skin off in a contempt-driven despair over mankind.
I mentioned the Nordic, very specific connotations the album evokes, but “Aquarius” is very versatile in its gut-wrenching darkness. If you want to take it as a journey within the human soul, go ahead. If you’d prefer “Aquarius” to accompany you during the exploration of the obscure, but very much modern corners of the United States, feel free to do that as well, the album will also work. Personally I won’t be coming back to it very often, as nowadays I’m looking for other emotions in music, and the truth is that it’s hard to listen to this album “for pleasure”, but I can’t deny its suggestiveness. You can hear that it is the work of people torn by their inner demons.