To master the dark and wring compelling creativity from its densest shadows requires vision, belief and, perhaps most importantly, a dash of synchronicity. These are all qualities that ooze from every pore of the debut album by The Oath. A band forged around the fizzing, feral chemistry between Swedish guitarist Linnea Olsson and German vocalist Johanna Sadonis, The Oath represent the wild magic that erupts when two blazing souls collide and fate is sent veering off course by sheer strength of the human will. This is heavy metal at its most mercurial and intuitive.
“I had grown tired with the metal scene in Stockholm, and I wanted to experience something new and get out of my comfort zone,” Linnea Olson recalls. “This resulted in me going to Berlin, a city where I had no friends, and just exploring everything that makes it so magical… the creative energy, the sense of freedom, and the notoriously dark and debauched nightlife. I played my guitar as usual at home, and riffs started to pile up. By the time summer came, I felt the time was right to start a new band. My best friend Henke put me in touch with Johanna. On her end, she had been looking for a guitarist for a band that she wanted to call The Oath. We had an instant connection. And we looked almost identical.”
Having found each other and discovered that their obsessions, desires and musical urges were utterly compatible and swiftly and irrevocably interwoven, Linnea and Johanna set about devising an artistic masterplan. The results of that plan are now primed to emerge, fully-formed and thrumming with primal energy and pristine passion, in the shape of The Oath: a nine-song clarion call that simultaneously recalls the hallowed greats of heavy rock, punk and metal – from Sabbath, Trouble and Angel Witch through to the Stooges and Poison Idea, and further to Mercyful Fate and Danzig – while revelling in new ways to express the spirit of those revered archetypes. Recorded in ten days at Studio Cobra in Stockholm with producer Konie Ehrencrona at the controls and the raging rhythm section of Simon Bouteloup (bass, Kadavar/ex-Aqua Nebula Oscillator) and Andrew Prestidge (Angel Witch/Winters) underpinning Linnea and Johanna’s otherworldly hymns to the black, The Oath is a triumph for soul and sonic ceremony, with conviction and integrity bursting from every artfully-crafted riff and ethereal melodic motif.
“We had a die-hard dedication right from the beginning – if not, what’s the point?” states Linnea. “As for the master plan, there was none. If things fall into place naturally, you don’t need one. We felt that this was our shot, and we needed to go for it. We wanted this album to be primitive and minimalistic in the sense that the sound is fairly raw, and we kept overdubs to a minimal – most of what you hear on the album are live takes. But we also wanted to bring out the melody and richness that is within the songs. And these are all strong songs, which is very important to us.”
Veering from the strident grooves and shimmering menace of opener All Must Die to the breakneck, Luciferian clatter of Black Rainbow and on to the spine-tingling grandeur and grime of epic closer Psalm 7, The Oath is anything but just another addition to the modern pseudo-occult rock canon. Instead, it is an extraordinary glimpse into its creators’ overpowering charisma and chemistry and a thrillingly, hyper-nourishing dose of authentic, 21st century heavy metal sorcery. With input from In Solitude’s Henke Palm – who contributes some “improvised Voivod-style solos”, according to Linnea – and logo designed courtesy of Watain’s Erik Danielson, this is an album that exudes ageless style and irresistible substance: a potent antidote to the flimsy fripperies of the modern age.
“This album represents Johanna and me and our dedication to our music,” Linnea avows. “Everything about this band is about me and her – our relationship to each other, our differences as people and musicians, and the unity that we are in The Oath. She possesses strengths that I lack and the other way around. Musically, my riffs are the dirt and her vocals, the diamonds. I have a friend who cleverly put that the world is made up by two kinds of people: the werewolves and the vampires. By that standard, I am a werewolf and Johanna is a vampire. You can interpret that as you like.”
And now, this new ritual begins. The Oath has been sworn, the dice have been thrown. All that remains is the propagation of the divine but unholy art that these sisters-in-sound have wrenched from the depths of their harmonised psyches. The future belongs to those who believe…
“There are a lot of hopes, plans and ambitions,” Linnea concludes. “But what’s even more important is that there is only now and that now is forever.”
Dom Lawson, January 2014