(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Old Corpse Road.)
I suppose one of the reasons I’m so… selective (some might say “picky”, some might say “elitist”, some might say “hey you, just get on with it!”) when it comes to what bands from the UK I choose to write about is my distaste for the unfortunate sycophancy and self-regard which infests much of our home-grown Metal media.
After all, we’re a small nation, with a disproportionately large influence (particularly historically) on the Metal world, which inevitably breeds a certain parochialism and provincialism. Everyone has to be nice to everyone else, whether they truly mean it or not, because no-one wants to end up ostracised or shut out of the various clans and cliques, or construed as a traitor to the cause of “True British Heavy Metal” and its blinkered sense of national pride.
Indeed, sometimes it seems almost like a point of honour to show that we can produce just as many generic Machine Head/Pantera clones as our American cousins, or keep pace with our European brethren in the race to release as many half-baked Melodeath or interchangeable Black Metal albums as possible each year.
That’s why I’m always happy to throw my weight behind any band who demonstrates that extra flash of intelligence, intensity, or integrity I’m looking for. Bands like Wode, King Goat, and The King Is Blind (to name but a few)… bands like Rannoch, The Infernal Sea… and Old Corpse Road.
Now, while we have covered the redoubtable gentlemen of Old Corpse Road before here at NCS, most notably their highly underrated debut album ‘Tis Witching Hour… as Spectres We Haunt This Kingdom, we haven’t touched base with them in some time, and I must admit I almost overlooked Of Campfires and Evening Mists when it was released at the tail end of last month.
Thankfully I was reminded of its existence just in time for this review to be at least semi-opportune, because the second album by these Metal minstrels is a big step up from their debut, in more ways than one.
With a sound rooted in “classic” Black Metal (the epic grandeur of their music makes the term “classic” seems like a better fit than one like “Old School”), pulse-quickening tracks like “Herne of Windsor Forest” and “Peg Powler” have more than a hint of Nightside/Anthems-era Emperor to them, which I most definitely mean as a compliment, and there are also lingering traces of Dusk and Her Embrace-period Cradle of Filth (as well as vintage My Dying Bride) littered throughout shamelessly bombastic and multifaceted numbers such as “Pendle – Daughters of the Black Moon” and “The Great Thunderstorm”.
Yet that’s not to say this is in any way a derivative album, or one that can be reduced to a mere tribute to a bygone era, simply an acknowledgement that the music on …Evening Mists lives and breathes a certain sound and style very much associated with that “classic” period of mid-’90s Black, Death, and Doom Metal, a time when strength of character and a sense of purpose meant more than nickel and dime marketability.
And while it’s a noticeably sharper and more savage affair than its predecessor (not that Witching Hour… was exactly a slouch in that regard either), the biggest change, and the most notable improvement, which underpins …Evening Mists is just how much more powerful and confident a tone the band strike on each and every track, with every dashing, archaic melody or majestic, full-blooded harmony casting the Northern natives as long-lost kinfolk to the mighty Moonsorrow in all their proud, pagan glory.
As always, these prominent, folkish elements of their sound are given added weight by the band’s continued use and interpretation of old English folk tales as their lyrical and conceptual base, and it’s this integrity and dedication to their craft which helps put them head-and-shoulders above the multitudes of bad LARP acts, middle-class Satanists, and Pirates of the Caribbean wannabes currently masquerading as “the next big thing” in the UK’s always lively, often contentious, Folk/Black Metal scene(s).
It’s a simple fact of life that everything… well, most things anyway… exists along a bell-curve distribution. Music is no different.
And although the median-glut of bands in any scene is usually comprised of what seems like an endless array of generic sound-alikes, knee-jerk reactionaries, and bands who spend more time on their corpse-paint than their song-craft, the true diamonds, the real cream of the crop, always (excuse the mixed metaphor) rise to the top and shine through in the end.
Well, once again, Old Corpse Road have proven that they belong right up there with the best of them.
You will never – NEVER – top America’s ability to produce generic Machine Head/Pantera clones. That’s our thing, and we do it terrifyingly, soul-crushingly well.