NORTHERN OAK – Of Roots and Flesh

NORTHERN OAK – Of Roots and Flesh

Before we begin, I feel a weighty responsibility to point out that the cover of this album depicts a literal ent whose taken a moment out of what is presumably a busy life of photosynthesis and watching young adults awkwardly paw each other under his branches to ponder whether or not any of the myriad plants growing on him are hallucinogenic. Obviously this is a hero of our time.

And the perfect cover for something as odd as prog-folk metal. It sounds like a pretty odd idea at first and you’d be forgiven for struggling to imagine how it might work.

It’s a struggle somebody in the recording industry apparently had, too, as they were forced to fund the album through kickstarter. It’s a rare band that can get an album bought by their fans before they’ve even made it.

Though, to be honest, there’s not many like these guys in the business. Even before listening I found myself glad it was made, if for no other reason than something like this might be too weird to go big, but it’s definitely too rare to die.

Despite the definite prog influences they’re probably closer to actual folk than most other groups in the genre. For starters they’ve got an actual flautist (which isn’t what it sounds like) and honest to god straight folk experience. The result is a sound that might seem a little Renaissance-fairesque at first, but grows on you the more you listen. For example, the first song, “The Dark of Midsummer” spends a minute establishing itself with the odd, discordant noises of a deep wood before stumbling, like a traveller into a clearing, into riffing, growled vocals, and a simple but powerful drumbeat. And, much like a traveller in a clearing, you’re almost certain to find something to love while you’re there.

While you might find it perhaps a little heavy on the flute, it’s precisely the kind of entry an album like this deserves. Even as it falls into more familiar territory later, there’s still that knowledge that, at any time, they could do anything.

From then on the album doesn’t disappoint. They’ve got the kind of confidence in their material that only guys with their kind of fan-base could hope for, and it really shows. Whether you like them or not, you’ve got to adore the dedication to their vision that these guys are capable of. It’s not for everyone, and thank god for that, but somewhere between flutes, screaming guitar riffing and unapologetic mysticism, you may well find something unique.

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