Oath of Defiance is a split CD which might feature artists from two entirely different continents, but a closer examination of the pairing reveals that it's a seamless and natural partnership. Finnentum of course is one of many projects belonging to the prolific Shatraug, who most will recognize from Horna, Sargeist, Mortualia and about 20 other acts, including Drowning the Light, whom he has appeared live with. I don't know much about the Australian half of this collaboration, Eternum, but they're a group who likely belong in the same circle of Drowning the Light, and might even involve some of the same people. Both albums issued decent full-lengths in 2009, and the Oath of Defiance sees them furthering their individual styles, which do not quite match up so well as their intentions.
One might ask, does Shatraug have room for another black metal band in his life? The answer is that Finnentum is not quite in the same style as his better known projects. This is basically dirty and melodic heavy metal, over which Shatraug uses echoing, cleaner vocals not unlike Fenriz on some of the more recent Darkthrone albums. It's dreary and somber, driving fare that delivers more through its atmosphere than the simplistic hooks, but nevertheless I found myself enjoying it intently, especially "Renewal of the Fire" and the more grimy, evil chord patterns of "Oath and Creed". If you've not heard the Finnentum full-length Reveries, then I'd urge you to do so, because the man seems to have a lot of fun branching out into something new, and this particular band gives him a lot of room to breathe. It's dire and menacing, yet somehow enthusiastic, and I do favor his four track contribution to this.
Eternum, on the other hand, have a more expected style, that of very distant, epic black metal with super raw production. That's not to say that they're slouching, because their material here is as enjoyable as it is rudimentary, with powerful melodic rhythms above which the snarled vocals do wonders. Of the two, they've got the colder sound, with "To Rule with an Iron Fist of Defiance" and "The Immortal Shield of Our Blood" standing out among their four tracks, plus the fell glory of an instrumental, "Liberation". While I didn't find the Australians quite so interesting as what Shatraug has manifest here, they're decent enough at their craft, and I feel like the drums at least go very well with Finnentum: simple thuds and crashes, allowing the guitars a spacious, wave-like quality that calculates emotion.
Oath of Defiance is a nice accompaniment to just wanting to kick back, or revel in nature without engaging yourself in much physical activity. I wouldn't qualify its content as 'lethargic', but you certainly hear more open spaces here than narrow, abrupt climes. Dreams of ancient wars, times long gone, myths and history drone on through the channeling of the guitars, and the nice mix of passionate rasps and cleaner, unique vocals make for a solid autumn or winter fixation. I haven't heard the Eternum full-length, but after this, I feel like it might be worth tracking down. As for Shatraug, like most of his work, Finnentum is worth a grab sight unseen, both this EP and his previous Reveries. Coming off the phenomenal releases of both Mortualia and Sargeist, this outlet provides somewhat of a different fascination.
Verdict: Win [7.75/10]