The Midlands Rocks
Paul ‘where’s the A-Z’ Castles loses his way up Old Corpse Road and puts the blame firmly at the door Of Campfires and Evening Mists, released by Cacophonous Records on 27 May 2016
Are you familiar with The Bearer, The Revenant, The Wanderer, The Dreamer and The Watcher? If not I’ll put you out of your state of perpetual misery. These are the five good and true fellows that make up arguably the UK’s finest modern day storytellers, Old Corpse Road. There are plenty of bands keen to wear the tag of ‘extreme metal’. Few though would consider starting a song by reciting a few opening lines from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor. Quoting the Bard is not a prerequisite for standing out from the crowd but it certainly does you no harm.
Over the last few years Old Corpse Road have forged a reputation for delving back in time to the Magna Carta and such like in their quest for inspiration from bygone days of yore. Almost the Mary Beard of extreme metal in fact! But while paganism peppers much of what they say and sound like, the north east five-piece are prepared to wrap some of the more flaming passages into a blazing black metal blanket.
Old Corpse Road are modern day William Tells, storytellers, and most of their prose is the stuff of legend, hauntings and esoteric episodes. Even the band’s name is taken from a bleak crossing nestled in the hamlet of Swindale Head in the Lake District. As there was no cemetery until the 1700s the path was used by a horse and cart to transport the dead a few miles down the road to the nearest available plot – hence it’s title.
Suitably macabre and mysterious truisms such as this were the feature of the band’s 2012 debut album Tis Witching Hour. This magnificent and at times mystical follow-up, Of Campfires and Evening Mists, is very much drawn from the druids, and the way in which old tales were once shared.
The album – which marks the start of their union with the recently reborn Cacophonous Records – is broken down into three defined segments ‘The Opening of the Circle’, where storytellers and listeners gather, ‘The Rite’ where folktales and legends are told, and ‘The Closing of the Circle’, where storytellers bid farewell to those gathered.
The opening track sets the scene with a huskily spoken script with a meandering message of stone circles and ancestral places of worship. The black heart of Old Corpse Road first surfaces on ‘The Whispers of Long Meg Through the Solstice’ a more pressing piece injected with urgency by the presence of a keyboard. An old church organ creates the suitably spooky intro to ‘Herne of Windsor Forest’ another epic tale about a shady horned figure in the woods with dark atmospheric touches that climb inexorably towards a rousing symphonic finish.
‘Pendle – Daughters of the Black Moon’ is so raw in places it almost gives you blisters as all hell is let loose and yet along its 11-minute journey there’s some melancholic choral chanting sung with far more conviction than you’re likely to hear down your local church on a Sunday morning.
One of the shorter tracks is ‘Sorrow Through Pendle Woods’ but it is also one of the most powerful, an instrumental breather, led by an organ played with simplicity and yet at times touching melancholy, particularly when accompanied by a sorrowful string section. With ‘The Great Thunderstorm’ Old Corpse Road throw further fuel on the camp fire with a rustic rampage back into long since forgotten times with unseen voices barking out from the shadows heightening the tension around a song in which the layers are piled ever higher.
After the extravagant 10-minute ‘Peg Powler’ OCR slowly bow out with ‘Closing the Circle – Hail and Farewell’, a fittingly sombre note on which to end an album which has the ability to transport you back in time to a simpler and yet more vivid way of life.
Out of 10
Team Rock / Metal Hammer
Although the title sounds like a scented candle, this second full-length by Darlington’s black metal mythologists is one of the UK underground’s most keenly awaited releases.
Four years have passed since OCR’s debut hoisted them to the upper echelons of ‘English Heritage black metal’, that amusingly named microgenre that’s re-energised homegrown extreme music.
With four band members getting a vocal credit, there’s certainly a multitude of voices, but the portentous oratories, death grunts and strangled rasps work together without sounding multi-tracked to exhaustion. Ripping guitars against a heavy-laden backdrop of spooky synths have a time-honoured inevitability, but the album’s trump card is its organic structural ebb and flow, with quiet pastoral glades and tumultuous surges emphasising the narrative thrust within 10-minute epics like Herne Of Windsor Forest and Peg Powler, reframing Old English folk tales in thrilling black metallic form.
Unholy Black Metal
Old Corpse Road is a band born in the United Kingdom in 2008. They have five members and, according with information at Metal Underground, they all play a part in vocal work. They deliver a very complex, well produced and engaging kind of black metal music with some folk elements. I previously didn’t know the band, so it was a total surprise as I listened their second album Of Campfires and Evening Mists – melodic, intricate, sometimes raw – crossing with some cleverly used keyboards. The ultimate effect is far from cheesy, but the whole thing sounds very professional. Sometimes it seems that we are listening to a new version of Emperor with all that majestic feel and monumental riffing. Please listen to “Herne of Winsor Forest” and judge for yourself. With no negative intention, I dare to say that this album has some commercial value above the underground, because it’s melodic, listenable, engaging, pleasing, diverse, and wrapped around the package of old Cacophonous Records. It was a nice bet because, as already said, the band sounds polished and professional and must be killer in live performances. Apart from this, even being an underground rat, I like to dwell into the music of Old Corpse Road and look for something new that I haven’t noticed before. I don’t know about the novelty of this album, it’s not something that I feel that will be very important in your final classification as listeners, but judge for yourself. I think the album pays more of a tribute to melodic black metal bands with folk elements than reaching for something new and exclusive. Recommended.
Occult Black Metal Zine
Old Corpse Road are a band from the United Kingdom that has been featured before in this zine and plays an atmospheric form of black metal with elements of folk music and this is a review of their 2016 album “Of Campfires And Evening Mists” which was released by Cacophonous.
Campfire sounds and acoustic guitars start off the album which also gives the recording more of a folk music feeling along with some drum beats a few seconds alter which also takes the music into a heavier musical direction while also using a great amount of melody and mixing in atmospheric keyboards in with the heavier sections of the songs.
Spoken word parts can be heard in certain sections of the recording while the vocals usually bring in a great mixture of grim death metal growls and high pitched black metla screams while the faster sections of the songs use a great amount of blast beats and they also mix both the folk and metal elements together When guitar solos and leads are utilized they stick to a very melodic style..
The fast riffs also use a great amount of tremolo picking which also gives the music more of a raw black metal feeling and most of the tracks are very long and epic in length and throughout the recording you can hear a great mixture of slow, mid paced and fast parts while the keyboards bring in the atmosphere of a gothic horror movie and some tracks also bring in a small amount of nature sounds and melodic vocals which also gives the songs more of a ritualistic feeling along with a touch of Celtic music on a later track and they also bring in a keyboard instrumental before returning back to a heavier direction on the remaining tracks.
Old Corpse Road creates a recoridng that is mostly rooted in the tradition British style of black metal bringing in the perfect balance between atmosphere, melody and heaviness while also mixing in some death metal and folk music elements to create a recording that really stands out, the production sounds very professional while the lyrics cover Celtic paganism, Druids, Wicca and British Folklore themes.
In my opinion this is another great sounding recording from Old Corpse Road and if you are a fan of keyboard driven pagan/black metal, you should check out this album. RECOMMENDED TRACKS INCLUDE “The Whispers Of Long Meg Through The Forest” “Pendle – Daughters Of the Black Moon” and “Peg Powler”. 8 out of 10.
Out of 10
No Clean Singing
(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.
Out of 5
Cacophonous? Really? That brought a wry smile to my face when the long awaited by me second album from this Darlington quintet finally arrived. For a band who have previously worn their Cradle Of Filth influences firmly on their longsleeves it was kind of nice seeing them find this as a home. Of course what was nicer was that this hard gigging band had finally managed to get this out and I could discover if they had progressed as much on record as they have live.
Well, blow me down and call me Peg Powler if they haven’t done just that.
I remember reviewing their debut for years back and being pretty enthusiastic, if wary of their CoF comparisons, and hoping that they would grow into a more individual sound to suit their wonderful, deep British folk lore obsession (if you didn’t know you’re as liable to find some pamphlet delving into a tale of wyrms or hags or barguests on their merch table as you are patches and I don’t know another band who have a folklore database on their website.) What we have here is a band still of unmistakable roots but that has flowered into an altogether different tree.
Short-ish opener, ‘Opening The Circle – Of Campfires And Evening Mists’ is an atmospheric, smoke and folk tinged piece. Dark and sombre as you’d expect with a crackle of that Winterfylleth introspective as it broadens out beneath epic keyboards and calling guitars. The deep, half spoken vocals which are used to great conjuring and storytelling effect throughout this album kind of remind me of Bal-Sagoth, or maybe A Forest Of Stars but with lyrical concerns far removed from high fantasy or mad occult Victoriana. This is dark bog and grim hedgerow stuff. ‘The Whispers Of Long Meg Through The Solstice’ though plunges us deep into the death accented black metal, a thick vein of folk running through the melody and those CoF style vocals and Old Corpse Road signature keyboards. Tight riffing, great rhythm section and imaginative drumming the solid base to build on. It’s epic, enthralling stuff with multiple passages woven together so well. It’s lovely to hear how much this band has grown.
‘Herne Of Windsor Forest’ is a real blast-turbulent Emperor-esque guitars thrashing a storm and touches of pounding death metal swept into by chilling keyboards and vocals. Vocals. Yeah, really should talk about those. One thing Old Corpse Road have become so good at is realising the potential of when and how to mix them up and their vocal performances, handled by four of the five members, really are superb. From the CoF/Emperor high screams and cackles, through the deeper death metal style and the spoken word, not to mention the great clean choral moments, they bring huge swathes of light and shade to the proceedings. I just think their touch and their choices here are exemplary.
So, any criticisms? Honestly, not much worthy of mention. It is I suppose, a fairly traditional UK black metal sound with the folk and death influences, the latter very strong in ‘Pendle-Daughters Of The Black Moon’ but a) they really have nailed their own identity now and b) I don’t consider it a criticism really as I think it’s the better for it.
I’ll leave you to explore the remaining songs and stories such as ‘The Great Thunderstorm’ and ‘Peg Powler’ but as you reach ‘Closing The Circle – Hail And Farewell’ I hope like me you feel you have been sitting around the campfire with me, listening to old tales, dark fables and mist haunted Pendle myths. It might have been a difficult (Old Corpse) Road of four years between albums but it’s so great when you hear in this album how well spent those years have been.
Talent, teeth gritted determination and a desire to learn. That’s what you have in your hands here. Now go and buy the damned thing and see them somewhere out along the old corpse road. You will be handsomely rewarded.
Well done guys. So very well done.
Out of 10
Old Corpse Road are back with their second album Of Campfires And Evening Mists and if you liked their debut offering, then you’ll love this – it’s on a whole new level for the band.
One of the best things about Old Corpse Road is that their lyrics are based on English folklore, which definitely helps in making the album much more refreshing and interesting, and indeed – Of Campfires And Evening Mists is a fully immersive listen that will really draw you in. The keyboards in particular are utilised well, with the melodic elements adding a wonderful ambient and mysterious tone to the harshness of the rest of the instrumentation.
The highlight of the album comes from sixth track The Great Thunderstorm, a song that will send shivers down your spine as the introduction begins with the acoustic guitar and spoken vocals that set the scene well before the full band kicks in and the immediate energy behind the performances from everyone involved is truly something to behold. Another great moment in the track is the synthesised organ coupled with the harsh vocals that crops up a few times as the song progresses, and the long purely melodic section coupled with beautifully delivered choral vocals is a nice divider for the track before the band returns for one last aural assault in addition to the melodic section, which continues until the end.
To sum it up, Of Campfires And Evening Mists is a fantastic album. Admittedly, the second half of the album is a little stronger than the first, but as a whole the album is brilliant and well worth your time to check out – it’s a truly stunning piece of work.
Out of 10
Black Phoenix Rising
Old Corpse Road have become one of the leading lights of the UK’s increasingly impressive black metal scene, and their second album ‘Of Campfires and Evening Mists’ has no doubt been much anticipated by many. The band have recently signed to Cacophonous Records, a label with no small amount of experience in dealing with past, present and hopefully future black metal heavyweights. The band continue with their theme of telling tales of British folklore and creating music with an atmosphere which fits such tales, their debut album was extremely well received and deservedly so and with this new release I’m sure all involved are hoping to push even further, so how does it compare?
There’s no doubt if you enjoyed Old Corpse Road’s first album then this will be right up your alley. You won’t hear many massive changes in their sound, but what you will hear is a band who’ve considerably upped their game, no mean feat given their standards were pretty high to begin with. You’ll hear a band who have refined and enhanced their sound, bringing out the elements which worked previously and expanding those, building on them and allowing the seeds planted previously to grow fruit. Musically you’ve got an extremely eclectic approach to black metal, the band cover a lot of ground within the genre as well as crossing its boundaries when necessary, and above all the music is crafted to create an overarching feel which captures the essence and aesthetic of the subject matter. They’re telling stories here and this is a crucial aspect of Old Corpse Road’s sound. It doesn’t stop at just the lyrics, even if you never looked at those the music would still convey a strong sense of narrative in every song and the atmosphere created is one which fits this approach and the subject matter of these tales. It works exceptionally well, in addition to creating some outstanding black metal the haunting quality of the overall feel of Old Corpse Road’s music is unlike anything else you’ll ever hear. The backbone is harsh and shrill icy black metal backed up with synths which really help set the mood, you’ll also hear atmospheric interludes and majestic instrumental sections, vocals ranging from piercing shrieks to deep growls with cleanly sung and spoken word sections employed and some folky influence in there as well, yet this vast array of different elements all come together for a singular purpose and create the overall vision Old Corpse Road have. You will likely notice a degree of influence from other UK stalwarts such as Cradle Of Filth and Hecate Enthroned for example, comparisons have been made before but the similarity in all honesty is more a tip of the hat from Old Corpse Road to bands which inspired them, simple truth is despite a passing similarity Old Corpse Road have found their own very unique niche and are working well to create their own clearly defined sound which is radically different from anything else right now.
At the end of the day this is Old Corpse Road, doing what they do exceptionally well, this time around though they sound a hell of a lot more convincing in doing it. I think the success of the first album has gone some way in buoying the confidence of the band as well and this allows them to seriously focus on doing their thing and making it everything it should be. It results in a distinct refinement of what they did on the first album, as before you’ve got a hell of a lot of varied content packed into each song but this time there’s absolutely no wasted motion, everything in here is deliberate, precise, controlled and contributes something to the overall narrative. It’s also constructed in a way that keeps you hooked throughout the duration of each song, and given most clock in at between eight and eleven minutes this is essential. This will still demand a considerable attention span however, and expect it to take many many listens for it to reveal its secrets to you. You’ll likely hear something new on each listen for some considerable time and I’ll be honest, it does make it difficult to write about with the amount of things I could focus on. That’s no bad thing though, it may make my job difficult but the listener is in for a treat which is all that matters.
To sum up then, if you enjoyed Old Corpse Road’s debut there’s no question, you need this in your life. If you’ve yet to hear Old Corpse Road then unless you really can’t stand black metal then again, this is essential. I’ll go out on a limb to say that Old Corpse Road are one of the most creative and fascinating bands on the UK black metal scene right now and this album serves to further convince us of that, if any convincing were needed. If you’ve not discovered them yet this is a great time to do so and find out what all the fuss is about. Cacophonous made a sound choice here, and Old Corpse Road are going to be writing yet more chapters in the continuing story of UK black metal, make sure you hear this one.
Out of 10
In the metal genre we all love, a band’s artwork speaks volumes as to their intentions. The splendidly named Old Corpse Road’s evocatively titled Of Campfires and Evening Mists features a fire-lit forest with their logo superimposed over it. The said logo features such symbols of nature as a wise owl and horns, and of course, trees feature prominently throughout.
Old Corpse Road are named after the trackways that would be cut when a graveyard was full to capacity and another field used for the same purpose; they are a still extant part of history and heritage.
And history and heritage are what Old Corpse Road stand for. They mine a rich vein of history and lore. Their lyrical inspirations are part of the very ground they stand on, the air they breath and of the forests and ancient ruins that inspire them. Here you will find none of the negativity and faux-extremism that has marred the metal scene in later years. At the end of the day, it is all about music, and music is either good or it is not, and Old Corpse Road’s music is very good indeed.
Musically, Old Corpse Road have their own distinct sound: a group of six equals and friends, they do not sound like any other band. This is music without ego, created for the love of it.
In fact, Old Corpse Road have all of metal’s strengths and none of its weaknesses, few bands could one honestly say that about.
Of Campfires and Evening Mists opens with the aptly titled “Opening The Circle,” drawing the listener into several tracks which tell beautifully written tales of black moons, forests and the splendidly named Peg Powler. This is truly reviving the storytelling tradition we would otherwise lose in our soulless era of mass-communication.
I have to say the lyrics are truly beautiful, Dio-like in sincerity, and in depth; they sum up Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces. It is as though the words always existed and the band drew them forth with their music.
Musically, they are flawless and yet the music always carries a warmth and sincerity. Beautifully acoustic passages vie with metal fury, choral chants, spoken word sections, and just… expect the unexpected!
My album of the year thus far, and I don’t expect that to be challenged. If you buy one album this year, I would seriously suggest this be it!
Ethereal Black Metal
I am proud to share another great release from these very shores, the return of Old Corpse Road and their new album ‘Of Campfires and Evening Mist’. These guys know their British folklore which is a credit to them. I have followed them from the first demo and even got a stone taken from the actual old corpse road itself sent with the debut album in a nice little velvet bag which was a very nice touch.
The cover itself speaks volumes of what waits within. The band play atmospheric black metal with plenty of symphonic touches spreading tales of times of old from their native homeland. Myths and legends long forgotten and buried in time. An excellent and exciting theme for the band to utilise. All wrapped by the beauty of nature.
The music itself is their most accomplished release to date and sounds wonderful. The production is crystal clear allowing all the instruments to shine. The keyboards are really prominent on this one and sound very ambient like in places pushing the atmosphere to the fore. Vocals range from blackened rasps and deathly growls to spoken parts, only adding to the great variety on offer. No shortage of riffs and melodies either and nothing overstaying its welcome, all powered by a thunderous bass section.
You can tell I really adore this type of stuff. The English heritage is such a great place to explore full of glorious folklore, myths and tales. Combine that with themes of a spectral nature it makes for quite an exciting cauldron of influence. An excellent effort and the bands strongest slice of bewitching black metal to date. Sitting at a campfire in the dead of night, smothered by an endless legion of towering trees while forever listening to the storyteller, Old Corpse Road…
Iron Fist Magazine
It’s a great time for British black metal, with the likes of Winterfylleth, Ninkharsag and Fen all raising the bar high. The UK is currently producing some the best music that the genre has to offer and Old Corpse Road could be set to join their ranks with second full-length ‘Of Campfires and Evening Mists’. With one album and a demo already under their belts, as well as splits with both The Meads of Asphodel and The Infernal Sea, the five-piece have already put their stamp on the scene and are causing quite a stir.
Much like their previous efforts, this record plays heavy on the themes of British folklore and mythology. With the opening song called ‘Opening The Circle’ and the last ‘Closing the Circle’, you certainly get the impression you are being invited in to hear campfire tales. These visual soundscapes are backed by booming spoken word passages and some creepy sounding organ/keys that will set cold fingers running along your spine.
The sinister atmosphere builds heavily on each track before launching into a full frontal blastbeat assault packed full of razor sharp riffs and a mixture of high pitched screams and low-end death growls. It does feel like it’s taking itself just a touch too seriously at times, however, which causes the album to come off as a little silly. Fans of ’90s black metal will surely enjoy this opus, as it has an incredibly strong (early) Cradle of Filth vibe about it.