Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: Oakenshield - Legacy (2012)

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Oakenshield - Legacy
Based in the West Yorkshire city of Leeds, Oakenshield is the folk metal manifestation of multi-instrumentalist Ben Corkhill. The lyrics of Legacy, the second album created under the Oakenshield banner, are rooted in the Viking arrival in the British Isles during the early Middle Ages and contain snippets of historical sagas and ballads. Within this context, Corkhill crafts traditionally-inspired melodies that are given a sense of menace through the use of imposing riffs and croaking black metal vocals.

Listening to Legacy, the terms epic, majestic, and sweeping come to mind when attempting to describe the atmosphere Corkhill creates with his gritty riffs and lush keyboard work. Such a sense of Scandinavian grandeur begs comparison to bands like Falkenbach, Einherjer, and Forefather, and were it not for one particular element then Oakenshield would run the risk of being considered too similar to its predecessors. Enter David Denyer and his mighty violin to set Legacy, and Oakenshield, apart from the early runners in the folk metal marathon. I'm not being facetious in calling Denyer's contributions mighty, for without his part buoying the songs with a detailed sense of emotion Legacy would quickly become a touch too repetitive - though still quite good. From the mournful tone he lends to "Wen Heath" to a sound both folkish and Gothic on "Mannin Veen", Denyer's presence is a boon to the already engaging Oakenshield formula.

Oakenshield - Ben Corkhill
That formula, skillfully arranged by Corkhill, is built around a blend of folk and black metal that will most likely appeal more to fans of the former than to those of the latter. The traditional melodies - crafted through the use of keys, woodwinds, and violin - overshadow the crunchy riffs, which themselves never exceed a determined marching pace. Blast beats and tremolo techniques are not to be heard, though Corkhill does occasionally wind up a nice melodic solo. The most blackened element of Legacy is Corkhill's primary vocal style, though he croaks out the lyrics with exceptional enunciation and more pride than venom. He bolsters his rasps with generous use of clean gang choruses, chanting, and spoken-word passages that lend a hint of Nordic mysticism to his tales.

Legacy is such a consistent album, from the Yuletide melodies of instrumental intro "Northreyjar" to the keyboard and flute interplay on "Jorvik" to the grinding riffs of closing track "The Raven Banner", that pointing to one or two standout tracks is a difficult task. Instead, each song possesses such a strong sense of history, melody, and arrangement that it's easy to recommend Legacy to all fans of folk and Viking metal. This album is not unique, but it is worthy to share space in the CD rack next to the finest releases of the sub-genre.

Track Listing
2Earl Thorfinn5:58
4Mannin Veen4:38
5Wen Heath7:00
7Eternal as the Earth5:54
8The Raven Banner9:07
Total Runtime45:31

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