Origin: United Kingdom
Genre: Extreme Progressive Metal Folk Black Metal
Label: Self Released
Progressive folk metallers Northern Oak from Sheffield, England have recently released their new full-length album “Of Roots and Flesh“, their most professional work by far! They were formed back in 2006 and self-released 2 full-length albums prior to their new work; “Tales from Rivelin” in 2008 and “Monuments” in 2010. The recording of the new album was entirely funded through a Kickstarter campaign run by the band. The campaign obviously was very successful, since Northern Oak managed to record the album at Skyhammer Studios by Chris Fielding (Primordial, Electric Wizard, Conan), who also mixed and mastered the songs. The funding also allowed them to release “Of Roots and Flesh” in a really deluxe digipak edition CD.
Since its inception, the band is trying to create a fusion of melancholic progressive extreme metal and folk music, with flutes having a very dominant role in its sound. The improvement between the first two works was more than obvious, but still the band had some issues in its overall sound and production. “Of Roots and Flesh” is a huge step forward for the band in my opinion, since they have perfected their sound, but most importantly they have improved their songwriting skills. The new album includes 12 songs, with a total duration of 58 minutes, keeping the basic principles of their music the same. Melodic progressive metal, extreme “blackened” metal outbursts and rich folk orchestrations, combined in a much more solid and mature way than the previous efforts. The biggest improvement in my opinion is in the metal orchestrations, that sound now more natural, in a clearly better balance with the folk instruments; everything seems to be in the right level and of equal quality, something that was the biggest problem of their previous works.
Apart from the “technical” improvement, Northern Oak have also perfected their compositions. The folk melodies are simply amazing and except for the enchanting flutes, the band is also using wonderful violins and acoustic guitars. In addition to the authentic acoustic instruments, they also use synths, enriching even more their folk orchestrations. Guitars are technical and melodic, sometimes their sound is closer to heavy progressive metal and other times, where everything become faster and more extreme, they are closer to folk black metal. The compositions are very complex, the tempo of the songs changes constantly and one wonderful moment comes after another. Vocals are the most extreme element in their sound, remaining in their majority black metal screams, fitting though perfectly with their music. Of course clean vocals and beautiful choirs are also used, as the variety of their music demands. Many tranquil parts or totally acoustic interludes are still here, connecting everything in a much more interesting way. The band is equally good in all these different styles they mix, but most importantly they have unified them in a very solid and coherent sound. Of course there is still room for improvement, since there are a few weaker parts in the album, but I guess this is inevitable, due to its long duration. The lyrical subjects on ”Of Roots and Flesh” vary from song to song, but in general it deals with existential struggles and the constant “battles” between technology and nature, fantasy and reality, material and spiritual…
Northern Oak have really improved their music and I strongly recommend this work to fans of folk “extreme” metal. I really hope the album gets the distribution it deserves and draw the attention of some labels. Anyway, if you want to get the album, you can find all info you need just by following the links to their official pages bellow, where you can also listen to their complete discography. Apart from their wonderful music, it would be totally unfair if I don’t pay respect to the amazing artwork and package. “Of Roots and Flesh” comes in a 6-panel digipak, including also a 16-page booklet with all the lyrics. Amazing nature photography and fantasy artwork are combined perfectly by Northern Oak themselves and Vandenis Design & Illustrations. If you are still liking the physical albums, invest without second thoughts.