Northern Oak – Of Roots and Flesh

northernoakProgressive and blackened folk metal is quite often found and heralded in countries like Ukraine and the like, but jolly old England in the past has its share of bands and tends to gravitate towards the more commercial and fruity side of the genre. I think it’s proper to blame Skyclad for this, wouldn’t you agree? With this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised that Sheffield’s Northern Oak keep the in-key frolicking to a low roar and tasteful on their self financed 3rd album. The blackened side of their sound is in full effect on Of Roots and Flesh. With a harshly black vocal standard leading the charge, the riffs remain dissonant in their melodious march, yet full of purpose and memorable hooks that follow Medieval folk path in terms of melody. The guitars act as the meat of songs like The Dark Midsummer, while a solitary flute carries the melody lines over the metal wreckage. As the album unfolds, violins, acoustic guitars, synths and other commonly used “traditional” instruments in the folk metal field surface and do help to inject a nice eclectic aura into the bulk of this album. Yes at times there is an slightly noticeable level of cheese that can drift into segments of this music, which is hard to avoid for bands that utilize higher levels of melody, but to their credit, Northern Oak maintains that harsh vocal presence and solid guitar riffs to keep just the right level of melancholy where the more upbeat musical passages didn’t completely bother me. Melody and adventurous song structures are the driving force behind the formula set forth by Northern Oak, and even though such a light hearted atmosphere is something that appeals to me infrequently, Northern Oak are masters of their craft and have presented a fine balance between the darkness and a spirited trip back into their musical culture. A very talented band. It surprises me that a bigger label hasn’t snatched them up yet. -Marty

~ by martyworm on August 13, 2014.

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