Oakenshield - Legacy 3.5/5

Reviewed: 10-1-12


1. Northreyjar
2. Earl Thorfinn
3. Jorvik
4. Mannin Veen
5. Wen Heath
6. Clontarf
7. Eternal as the earth
8. The raven banner

Ben Corkhill took his time in delivering the follow-up to his Oakenshield project’s pleasing debut CD, with nearly 4 years passing before this follow-up saw the light of day. The result is a successor which makes little forward motion from the debut, but is content to shore up the project’s existing style with a few minor tweaks along the way, with similarly agreeable results.

The differences, such as they are, between ‘Legacy’ and ‘Gylfaginning’, are subtle, but definitely worth noting. Most notable is that the new CD is 3 songs and around 15 minutes shorter than the debut, making it a slightly more digestible effort without sacrificing any of Oakenshield’s traditional viking metal style.

A more subtle change, though, comes with Corkill’s switch in lyrical tact. While ‘Gylfaginning’ drew from the segment of the ancient Prose Edda with which it shares a name, ‘Legacy’, as the title would suggest, chronicles the many Norse invasions of the British Isles and the lasting effect had on the culture thereafter, particularly in the author’s native Yorkshire.

In this respect Oakenshield now share some ground with the burgeoning ‘heritage metal’ acts that are cropping up in England, though they remain dissimilar enough beyond the obvious Anglo-Saxon/Viking differences to keep a respectable distance. The furious, cascading, melancholy of the likes of Winterfylleth remains off the menu for Oakenshield, and the meandering and distinctly Norse-sounding melodies and rhythms keep them firmly in the folk/black bracket.

‘Legacy’ perhaps offers a more unified sound than its more sprawling predecessor, and the increased presence of the violin sees a unifying of the guitar/recorder/violin tenet more often than on the debut where each instrument usually took turns at playing lead. This is a 2-edged sword in a sense, as while the CD seems to surge with a greater sense of urgency, a little individual character is perhaps sapped from a few of the songs.

On the performance front, Corkhill continues to make decent use of an admittedly fairly limited black metal scowl, and there are fewer of the spoken passages that occasionally slowed things down in the past. A new addition is the infrequent use of guttural, heroic clean vocals that inject a degree of extra passion into the music. Happily, it can also be reported that the programmed drums sound more authentic this time out, and the double-bass sections no longer draw attention to their artificial nature.

Comparing and contrasting with ‘Gylfaginning’ is a little like splitting hairs though, as while there are definite advances and improvements in some areas, as well as a few things that don’t quite spark as much as on the debut, ‘Legacy’ is definitely to be seen as a companion piece to its predecessor and is on the whole very much in the same vein. Serious development has not been accomplished, but importantly, probably wasn’t even sought. Sometimes the wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented, and this 2nd helping of old-school viking metal from Oakenshield should serve as proof enough of that.




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