The Reticent – The Oubliette Review

If I had a list of my most anticipated releases for the year, The Oubliette would definitely be on it.1 Four years ago I had the pleasure of introducing you all to The Reticent’s excellent album, On the Eve of a Goodbye, a concept album dealing with the suicide of a close friend. It’s taken Chris Hathcock four years to put together the follow-up, in part due to misfortune. His theme this time around is Alzheimer’s, and the toll it takes on its victim rather than friends and family. The Oubliette is a deep dive into the fading mind of Henry, an Alzheimer’s patient. While perhaps less emotionally impactful than suicide, this is a disease that has more likely than not affected every reader here. I know I’ve had more than one relative suffer through it, and it is a sad and frustrating journey. Can The Reticent portray this journey in the form of a gripping progressive metal album?

Most definitely. Hathcock puts his experience gained during On the Eve… to good use here, constructing yet another strong narrative that leads us from first meeting Henry and getting a glimpse of his confused mind to the inevitable (some would say merciful) end. The lyrics are amazingly depressing, yet laced with the hopefulness one sometimes sees in the eyes of the disease’s victims. Early on, in “His Name is Henry,” Hathcock sings “A warm smile and hopeful eyes, greeting everyone as a friend, inoculated against woe.” Henry’s desperation shines through in “The Captive,” as he believes he is held against his will, and during a moment of lucidity in “The Palliative Breath,” he ponders “So the best of me is done… I know there’s even worse to come, leaving me my faculties.” And in the longest song “The Nightmare,” Hathcock howls in black metal fury, “No one’s listening. You’re alone now Henry. We will take everything starting with memories.” The Oubliette is quite the lyrical journey.

Music needs to back up the lyrics, and The Reticent does so throughout. Hathcock plays all instruments (with James Nelson contributing lead guitar work) and performs all vocals. Once again, he shows himself proficient and then some in all facets.2 Hathcock deftly combines a variety of elements in all seven songs. The aim is to show the manner in which an Alzheimer-infected brain deteriorates, and Hathcock does this adeptly by melding progressive metal, jazz, black metal, and hints of world music in the songs. That seems like it could be a chaotic mess, but it all makes sense. “The Captive,” embedded below, is a perfect sampling of the whole album, showcasing all aspects of Hathcock’s vision. It’s also the shortest song on the album, and thus the most easily digestible.

Once again The Reticent enlist the aid of Jamie King for production, giving The Oubliette the same quality in sound and balance as its predecessor. The instruments sound fantastic, and Hathcock’s singing is stellar. His blend of clean (often yearning) vocals and harsh moments used to demonstrate the confusion and fury of Henry is perfectly arranged. No single track stands out from the bunch, but at the same time, no song feels like it is merely filler. The narrative interludes, featuring different people trying to talk to Henry, aren’t really necessary; the lyrics more than aptly convey the story, but other than that there is no fat to trim from the album despite an average song length of nine minutes.

I can safely say my expectations have been met, and at times exceeded, by The Oubliette. Hathcock has taken yet another personal subject and transformed it into a taut, compelling progressive metal opus that, despite its hour-plus length, holds our attention throughout. Sure, there’s no home run on The Oubliette like On the Eve of a Goodbye had with “Funeral for a Firefly,” but there are also no weak tracks to speak of. Not as emotionally gripping, but just as musically impressive, The Oubliette is a worthy follow-up and an album Hathcock should be proud of.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Heaven and Hell Records
Websites: | |
Release Worldwide: September 25th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. In fact, three releases this week would be on it: this, The Ocean, and Deftones.
  2. It’s refreshing to listen to a one-man band play drums in a manner that makes sense.
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