Northern Oak - Of Roots and Flesh (Own Label)

English black metal with one eye on the past and a bright future...
Release Date: 
3 Oct 2014 - 11:30pm

Northern Oak is not a name that tumbles off the lips when mead lovers gather in their local rock taverns to discuss all things folkish and metallic. Yet here they are, discreetly slipping album number three loose of its moorings and in to the waiting world. You could call them quiet achievers, though mercifully there’s plenty of loud music to be found in the grooves of Of Roots and Flesh

Falling somewhere between the first couple of Cradle of Filth albums, and a slightly less stentorian take on the Winterfylleth way of British black metal, Northern Oak have plenty to offer the discerning fan of this type of stuff, without ever really displaying a grasp of the sort of dynamics needed to take their musings into the wider arenas they doubtless covet. This album was kickstarter funded, so obviously no extravagancies were really available in the budget, but sometimes the production work here just leaves you yearning for the sort of widescreen massiveness songs such as Nerthus so obviously cry out for.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with the performances here; bassist Richard Allen in particular impresses throughout, whilst keyboarding violinist Digby Brown also offers some nice work (he shines with fiddle in hand especially on the excellent, My Dying Bride-referencing Taken). And of course Northern Oak’s signature instrument – the flute – features front and centre throughout, ably wielded by the excellent Catie Williams.

It’s the flute that offers Northern Oak their main point of difference here,  and the fact that it’s used often yet without the seemingly inevitable descent into bucolic Jethro Tullish tweeness is testament to the skill with which Northern Oak manage their ‘secret weapon’. The flute is intergrated fully and successfully into their overall sound – no mean feat.

Nice work, then, and there are enough strong pointers here to suggest that, with a bit of luck and maybe a bit of managerial heft these boys and girl could well be the next big metal act to emerge from Sheffield, one of the homes of British steel these past forty-odd years…