Oppressing the Mind (With One Fracture in the Road)
My huge expectations has increased doubly since the title and front cover have been published by the band. Even if Roadhog isn’t a mainstream giant (in future, who the hell knows that?), the debut impressed me a lot stealing my dreams very often and still ripping the empty silence in my world. That’s true I’m a slave to such songs as „Poison Man” or „Dead of the Night”, many times I just catch myself singing those choruses in many various situations. Yes, „Dreamstealer” was a blast. And still is.
With that in my mind I proceeded to „The Oppressors”. Again under the banner of Stormspell Records, again with drawing attention front cover (this broody busty lady has a haircut similar to Pemo, hasn’t she?). But this time Olof Wikstrand has been replaced by Cederick Forsberg as a sound engineer. And if compared to the debut, the sound realization is given in much modern way, not being any kind of fault to the whole: it is just great keeping the things all audible. So, the main question from my point of view appears: did they give me a better album? Well, let’s see, the beginning couldn’t be better, with even more power and speed comparing to „Liar”, „Fall from Grace” simply cuts my head down. Somehow it touches speed stylistics in early Agent Steel vein: it is fast, crushing, neck-breaking, firing totally effective riffs to the crowd. And however the song isn’t any sign of genre changing, another „Fight It Back”should be a concert firecracker as well, just like a closing track, simple and riffs mesmerizing. But as I wrote, the speedy madness isn’t an oppressing key here and the rest is maintained in rather mid tempo.
The first half is absolutely fine. We have energetic „The Fear” with very catchy bridge and chorus becoming another highlight next to the mentioned duo (however great leads starting at 2:50 and lasting till 4:00 turn the title into „The Bliss”, which is kind of accidental paradox, don’t you think?); we have very slow „Suffer in Silence” and faster a bit „Black Moon” which is probably the best one in family, being just a great tribute to Heavy Load, with surprising intro, mysterious and eerie, definitely something new for the band. A heavy killer, indeed! And the title song ends the first half, „The Oppressors” sound really promising. But the number six belongs to „Children of the Dark” and… something broke in the machine. Those fully balladic 4:32 minutes are the only controversial tunes here, that’s true I did not expect to hear the highlight like „Children of the Damned” or „Watch the Children Pray”, ‘cause it’s impossible I guess. Something was wrong here and originally I gave it many very careful meetings. What’s more, during listening to the whole album, „Children of the Dark” got more chances than others. With a booklet in my hands or with closed eyes. Thinking about using of children choir and pretty nice guitar leads. About powerless Krzysztof vocals and unnatural keyboards in the background. And concerning the final opinion, the song sticks out absolutely, however it’s not the thing I hated it, but it feels so damn out of place here. For a single release as an additional one? Maybe, but this time Roadhog has just failed…
…and luckily „Fight It Back” has woken me from the sonic torpor and brought the band on the right road. Don’t know their intentions but this song is like a balance weight and it works here splendidly. The rest doesn’t bring any confusing surprises, only the stuff I’d like to listen to, it’s worthy to notice completely untypical guitar lead in „Set the World on Fire” (no, it’s not the cover song) or the next track that reminds me a bit about „Annihilator” song from „King of the Kill” album. Then, „(Don’t) Follow Them”, a highlight from last year Ep, and the album is ended by „All Hell's Breaking Loose”. And yes, the track list has been done right now. What about the vocal lines, the underbelly from the debut? When I consider the music itself, the whole idea and performance, lyrics, front cover, production-wise and general heavy metal spirit, Roadhog machine is Premier League level using football terminology. In turn, Krzysztof endeavours are in Championship yet, with Fulham attitude during this season with two wins, five draws and two defeats by the end of the third week of September. It’s nothing extraordinary, just a solid work. His Polish accent is still distinguishable, there are really good moments opressing the mind (in fast songs, especially) and there are moments that need to be improved (mostly in slower parts).
If I am in the kingdom of maths, my final mark is a bit lower as compared to the bestial stealers of dreams, yet I cannot write about any letdown. When one song is skipped, „The Oppressors” provide ten equal heavy metal shots served in a way it should be executed. Generally speaking, the band matures, it’s not the highest offer yet and I’m sure the musicians know that. But with such a potential, the future looks really auspiciously, don’t it?
(written in September, 2017)