Rhea’s Obsession – INITIATION

1996; re-issued 2001, Metropolis Records

As an ex-Goth, I’d previously only been familiar with Rhea’s Obsession through a string of songs they’ve recorded for compilations, usually tribute albums that tend to be really hit-or-miss to begin with, and probably since it was other people’s music, there wasn’t a whole lot about their music that really stood out for me — after all, there’s only so much of your own sound that can be added to a cover before it stops being a re-imagining of the song and starts becoming a butchering, at least with rare exception (in my not-so-humble opinion).

Initiation, on the other hand, is Rhea’s Obsession; pure, unadulterated Rhea’s Obsession, and I can see why the mother of Zeus may obsess on this band. The album opens with a lush neo-mediaeval piece, “Memento Mori”, that I myself would definitely find suiting to ritual use; the vocals are expertly layered and the instrumentals are a strong example of minimal world folk beats. “Waves (Take Me Alive)” is another really stand-out song, opening with a Love & Rockets like guitar jangle met seconds later by Sue Hutton’s voice and delicate percussions. Hutton’s voice is one of the best suited for the kind of eclectic darkwave that she performs with her band; she has a smooth and dramatic mezzo-soprano that will take leaps into notes and has a splendid grasp of vibrato — her voice can tremor, warble, and downright quake at the most appropriate moments, only to just right back to steady notes once again, unphased. Complimenting this are Jim Field’s understated rock guitars. You get the impression just from listening that he’s been in punk and metal bands before joining forces with Ms Hutton, and that this filters a primal energy into the music, keeping out anything that would overpower Hutton’s sometimes-delicate voice while sifting in just enough of something wild and necessary from the Great Mother Kybele often associated with the band’s namesake.

“When I Was In My Prime” is one of the other truly stand-out pieces on this record. It’s a brilliant opus of fuzzy guitars, blended experimental and Mediterranean percussions, brilliant use of feedback to sound like the sounds of a storm (turn it up high enough, it sounds like the steady curtains of rain I heard just outside my window last week), and more of Ms Hutton’s layered, piercing, sometimes tremorring vocals, and carefully selected electronics and samples of wildlife.

Another favourite of mine is their “Hymn to Pan”. Opening with crunchy guitars and lilting drum cymbals, Hutton’s voice comes in with stylised vocal affectations and processed through echo effects reciting wholly original erotic verse seemingly influenced by the poetry of Jim Morrison and Rozz Williams in addition to occasional syncretism that suggests familiarity with Orphic verse. Closing out the record is “Tsunami”, with Hutton’s soaring sustained vocalisations, water percussions, and guitars distorted to sound reminiscent of frogs chirping.

My favourites aside, the album as a whole is completely worth every penny spent on it (if you can find an original run; I don’t even know where mine came from, which is odd), or Metropolis’ reprint, re-titled Re:Initiation due to the addition of bonus tracks (fourteen compared to the ten on my own) and expanded album art.

Metropolis artist page
album page on last.fm
lyrics
Rhea’s Obsession on Amazon

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