Written by Valkyrjiaa
Heathen Foray – Oathbreaker
> Neo-pagan/death metal
> Released April 7
> New Massacre Records
Unlike some who falsely raise the Neo-Pagan banner beneath their name, Heathen Foray’s kinship with the genre takes on a more modern and appropriate interpretation. In their honesty, what else is a modern Pagan but an activist for a cleaner world, sustainable living, and social solidarity? This placed Heathen Foray beneath the Neo-Pagan flags with songs about climate change and fighting oppression at the helm of their journey.
Taking up catchy melodies while melding ambient black metal within, Heathen Foray wave their own banner proudly. With touches of folk metal elements, the band creates sing-along anthems and bring bone-breaking riffs that have earned them quite the popularity in the underground metal scene.
Oathbreaker sees the band return to their melodic founding to take on their advocacy for change both lyrically and musically. Touching upon their earlier tracks from albums like The Passage and Armored Bards, Heathen Foray bring us an eclectic genre blend that’s sure to both shock and impress.
The title track “Oathbreaker” is a bone-crunching introduction. Mixing lyrics in both English and German, the track has a very Dark Tranquility vibe at its roots and sends the message about their environmental stance blazing through.
“Oathbreaker – all betrayer / You broke the oath, expect unbending resistance” from the chorus leads into verses like “Deep blue life spring turns to brown / White wide planes sinking down” to display a strong visual of the drastic climate changes reshaping our world. “Life is worthless, money matters” sends the powerful message about priorities and what our governments value over safety and sustainability. Not only is this track deeply impactful in its vocals and lyrics but, the catchy melody helps see it through on steady drumbeats and rhythmic chords.
“Leben” (EN: “Life”) enters the fight as a speedy, heavy hitter presented in all German. With harsh vocals and some divine guitar work, it’s a message on youth turned sour, and the crushing desire to turn us into “productive members of society.” The melodic core at the center of this track is insanely inspiring, really leaving me shocked at the twist from speed to soar so flawlessly executed. We see a power metal influence drive through in the hasty pace, and one that thrives on in the riveting solos that break just before the five-minute mark. It’s catchy, melodic, and absolutely compelling with technical skill and mixes that really blew me away.
Being presented in the band’s native tongue of Styrian German, “Ahnenreih” (“Line of Ancestors”) is Heathen Foray’s most sacred track. Taking the time to collect stories and quotes from passed loved ones, this song merges them all to create a truly touching track to make us remember that we stand on the backs of legends. Folk roots take hold on this track to give us a melody unlike any other. From the very beginning it’s breath-taking, letting a barrage of drums strike us relentlessly until the vocals come in. There’s beauty in the way the band sticks so closely to their roots in both music and language, utilizing their skill and inspiration to create driving melody yet, delicate notes to truly convey the impact in their lives. It’s a track I went back to in order to truly navigate the multitude of emotions being exposed before me which allowed me to greater appreciate it in a much broader perspective.
Heaviness takes over on “Heimdalls Spross” (“Scion of Heimdall”) where we discover the Amon Amarth inspiration nestled within. In full German, the lyrics provide humanity with an insight into their doom. If we do not change now, the environmental Ragnarök will be unavoidable. The riffs on this track are wicked, bringing us a catchy melody from the get-go and one that you find yourself moving to long after its ended. You get the heavy, solid bass lines, rhythmic drums, and solid guitars that don’t strive to over-achieve, and keep our beat steady throughout. It’s an easy headbanger, one that could get any crowd head-bobbing along with minimal effort. And great guitar solos? Oh, this track has one that’s absolutely WILD.
Pressing through our eight-track adventure, we reach “Allvoll” (“Always Full”) presenting us with a love-letter to one of metal’s greatest influences – beer. It gives us a refreshing break from the environmental warfare at our doorstep to indulge in a bit of fun with a catchy chorus, and anthem-like melody. It’s hard not to simply fall in love with this simple yet enjoyable tune. Of course, not to be let down, we get our fair share of blistering solos to kick you out of a drunken stupor and ready to fight once more. But, if Ragnarök is upon us, then let us enjoy one last pint!
We sober up for “1000 Years of Human Flesh” that puts organized religion on trial. From burning heretics in 1022 (Orleans heresy), we see the influence of the church still clutching our throats 1000 years later. This track serves as a reminder that we are our only true saviours, and it’s on us to change for the better. Our melodies go deeper and darker on this tune, giving the black metal influence a true and full embrace.
“Longing eternally / For an unknown destiny / No shepherd will save our soul / You are part of a whole” is a grim, yet realistic perspective on what we, as individuals, must look to if we are to survive. We, as a whole, can make a change, only we can decide our future, and when it is time to join together. It’s a dark perspective, one taken up in grinding vocals and cosmic chants to convey proper emotion and impact on a topic that’s often brushed aside our ignored. One of the lengthier tracks, this one is so deeply layered with musical skill and lyrical strength that it deserves multiple listeners and it garnered many from me. Truly, to understand the complexity Heathen Foray wishes us to navigate on this track, it deserves to be played loud.
In “Raimont” we tackle the issues of child labor, greed, and exploitation that run rampant. Vocals arise in English, turning to point the finger at the consumer, and the fast fashion trend sweeping the nation. It’s the most musically experimental track on the album with elements of groove, funk, and Indian metal all finding a home.
“We need more, forever more / Our hunger shall be appeased / We need more, forever more / Nowhere enough, devouring disease” puts into perspective our endless desire to consume; from cosmetics, to fashion, to entertainment, when will our hunger be satiated? The melody stays low and steady with a heavy, thunderous drum line and low, almost muted guitars that allow the lyrics to take much of the spotlight. Naturally, we see the guitar solo jump in to make sure we’re still listening, and our attention is pulled back by sturdy hands. The musical nods and shifts keep interest as the vocals go loud and strong to truly make us reflect on the greed consuming our lives. Are we doing enough to slow this disease or are we aiding in its progression?
Our end comes on “Covenant of Swords” – a call to arms after enduring the harsh reality of the seven previous tracks. The Children of Bodom influence is strong on this finale, seeing a rise in death metal riff work dancing in. “Take your place, you do exist / There will be more armored brothers, just like us / Is it not you, who chooses the path?” puts us in the driver’s seat but, reminds us that we are not alone in this fight. It’s a blood-bringer, calling all to make a change to the best of their ability through sky-tearing riffs, bludgeoning drums, and demanding vocals. It takes an anthem-like stance in its core to let fans know the seriousness behind their lyrics and asks us, the listeners, to join them in the fight for sustainability, for a brighter future.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Heathen Foray take a true stance in their Neo-Pagan tagline, letting their lyrics reflect on the seriousness of the environmental and political issues plaguing our planet. They not only call to us, but unite us through their catchy melodies and emotional lyrics. With touches of folk, death, and even power metal, the band not only keeps interest but, focus on their words and their message. It’s an album that’s as musically creative and driven as their passion and stance on the issues of our world. A solid band under the Pagan flag, taking the meaning to heart and utilizing it to keep listeners entertained while provoking though and shaking routine. Oathbreaker is an absolute MUST LISTEN!