The post-hardcore label is often a misnomer, applied lazily to bands that fall within the metal/punk spectrum but are difficult to categorise. But, if post-hardcore can be defined as a base of hardcore punk that draws expressive elements from other musical genres, then Oregon Trail would appear to fit the bill. Hailing from the lonely town of Le Locle in the Jura mountains of Switzerland, this band’s second album is a brooding, cathartic balance between nihilism and the will to live.
Oregon Trail have thought carefully about their song structures, exemplifying the best of post-hardcore which plays creatively with the building and release of tension. Atmospheric intros progress ominously into stormy riffs that roll like waves. The guitars are satisfyingly down-tuned and the bass is given plenty of weight in the mix. This heaviness is balanced with delicate passages; harmonics in "Aimless At Last", and acoustics in "Marble Grounds", the final track which descends into pure wave sounds to end the album.
Oregon Trail have clearly been influenced by The New Wave Of Post-Hardcore, and comparisons with Defeater and La Dispute will be inevitable. This is particularly evident in the vocals, Charles-Adamir Bernhard’s desperate ‘screamo’ monotony appropriate to the musical context. But Oregon Trail are no copycat act and are developing a sound of their own which has more in common with bleak Swiss mountains than US suburban wastelands. For example there are distinct elements of black metal evident in the tremolo picking of "Everlasting Walks" and "Aven".
If there is a theme to this album, it’s the effect of weather and landscape on the human psyche. In his song titles and subject matter, lyricist/drummer Arnaud tries to convey the awe-inspiring contrasts in relief between mountain summits and deep caves (‘aven’ refers to an underground cave in French), bright sunlight and months of winter darkness ("Sun Gone Missing") that humble us before nature.
There is a modesty to this album that makes it innately Swiss, but beneath the restraint it has a subtle power that is infectious, healing, and recommended.
H/aven Track Listing:
01. Sun Gone Missing
02. Aimless At Last
03. Everlasting Walks
05. Safety of the Storm
06. Hound’s Will
08. Marble Ground
Run Time: 42 minutes
Release Date: February 16, 2018