Self Relaeased 2011
1.Sun Gods Wrath 2.Gawain 3.Into The Forest 4.Silvan Lullaby 5.Arbor Low
6.Nivis Canto 7.The Scarlet Woman 8.Death In The Marshes 9.Pavane in G Minor
10. In These Hills.
Sheffield’s Northern Oak describe their sound as progressive folk metal which is a fair description but there sound has more to it than that, Black Metal being at the core of the music they are producing. Opener ‘Sun God’s Wrath’ features all their influences, the harsh BM guitars and vocals, the epic sounding flute work which really stands out and gives the track its folk feel. ‘Gawain’ takes a more subtle, melodic approach. The flute again at the forefront of the song and this time round synths are introduced giving a very symphonic BM feel. It’s very atmospheric and epic sounding, the harshness of the BM vocals sitting perfectly alongside the folk elements of the flute and synths. Ever present is the BM style guitars which accompanies the other elements of Northern Oak’s sound perfectly.
‘Into The Forest’ strips the sound down, the flute again the backbone of this track, with spoken / sung vocals and acoustic guitar; this is the band at their most melodic, even progressive. There’s are a very distinctive atmosphere being created and it leads into ‘Silvan Lullaby’ perfectly, the BM element introduced subtly through the harshness of the guitars and vocals. The melody is continued throughout this track, synths and acoustic guitars once again used to create that ‘folky olde world’ feeling. Vocals are sparse throughout this track, but when used, are a great addition to the folk elements. ‘Arbor Low’ starts surprising heavy, guitars crunching along in an almost death metal style. Growled style vocals are also introduced to add variety, sounding very doom/death (early My Dying Bride maybe) and then the BM is re-introduced, the drums blasting to the harsh BM style riffs. It would be very easy for Northern Oak to continue that BM style, scathing guitars, blasting drums, harsh vocals. But I’m glad to say the band don’t follow that cliché, as ever the flute re-introduced to ‘calm things down’ and retain the melodic folk sound. ‘Nivis Canto’ almost sounds like an interlude, the band once again stripping the song back to a bare minimum, vocals, flutes, acoustic guitar and drums used to once again create a haunting atmosphere, swathed in a progressive and folky edge. The second half to this track again re-introduces the BM sound, reminding the listener it’s not all melody and folk, there is extreme metal on offer here as well. ‘Cerridwens Round’ sounds very medieval, the synths especially effective…days of old spring to mind, kings sat in courtyards gorging on feasts. The production is great; the only grumble being that when the guitars shred out the BM riffs, they are too quiet, the flute, vocals and drums tending to overpower what are some great BM elements. Every track is unique in its composition and structure, all the familiar elements being used, but being used differently to create 12 individual pieces of music but not so different to each other that they sound out of place. Each track sits comfortably with the next.
‘In These Hills’ sees the band at their most Black metal, harsh guitar and vocals on show throughout most of the track, all backed up superbly by the flute and acoustic guitars. There is certainly a lot on offer here, every element to band’s sound working in conjunction with each other to produce what is a very unique, interesting and well executed sound. This will not be to everyone’s taste; there is a lot of progressive, folk inspired melody on offer and the pace throughout the entire cd remains slow to mid-paced. But that is where Northern Oak are succeeding, they aren’t following any trends, they aren’t treading any well-worn paths; they are creating their own path and treading it extremely successfully and uniquely. If you are looking for something a bit different from the norm, which retains and extreme metal edge but also offers a lot more, then this cd comes highly recommended.
8 out of 10