Review Summary: If folky, atmospheric (black) metal is your thing, Oak Pantheon have just what you need
Like Oak Pantheon proclaim on From a Whisper
’s first song, titled "Descend Into Winter", here comes the snow indeed. Let me make this very clear: I don’t hate snow, and I’m all for cold, but in a weird way, winter is definitely my least favorite season. Harsh truth about life: people aren’t jolly during winter like they are in the movies, not where I live at least. No, in Estonia, people are usually grumpy, introverted and pissed about the weather during winter (on the other hand, we’re always pissed off about the weather – there’s even a local saying that Estonia = 12 months of shitty skiing weather). It’s no wonder then, that it’s during winter that I spend a big chunk of my time indoors, studying, relaxing, sleeping or listening to quality music. Yes, if I had to pick the season where music has the biggest impact on my life, it’d definitely be winter (though autumn comes close). There’s nothing like sitting next to a fire (or a radiator, whatever) on a cold winter night and putting on your favorite atmospheric metal records. Well, it’s not quite winter yet, but it has started snowing down here and the feel of winter is slowly but surely creeping near, so it’s again time to turn to my collection of "winter" metal. Every year I add a few records to that collection, though, and one record that I have already added there in 2012 is Oak Pantheon’s From a Whisper
It will be impossible to get through this review without mentioning the name Agalloch, because there are a ton of similarities between Oak Pantheon and the atmospheric metal masters from the US. The overall sound (melancholic folk metal with a wide range of influences, starting from black metal and concluding with post-rock), the lyrical themes (nature, heathenry) and even the vocals (it is a fine impression of John Haughum that Oak Pantheon’s two members Tanner Swenson and Sami Sati put on). It wouldn’t even be an overstatement to call the band Agalloch junior. Oak Pantheon do have a special weapon though: unlike many acts who play atmospheric, folky black metal, Oak Pantheon are actually really good at compositions and while the similarities towards Agalloch are undeniable, From a Whisper
manages to sound surprisingly fresh. The metal- and acoustic parts are in perfect balance, the echoey clean vocals compliment the music nicely and the instrumentation as a whole is just really well done. The drums pummel where they need to pummel, the fast black metal-inspired sections and tremolo picking come in at just the right times, and there are some really solid riffs and melodies on offer. Listening to From a Whisper
is like going to the movies and rediscovering your appetite for (great) films, because I for one went on a week-or-two-long atmospheric black metal spree right after I had heard this album.
There’s not much to complain about From a Whisper
. The compositions are tight, the acoustic parts flow like a river instead of meandering around meaninglessly, all of the album’s 63 minutes are well used by Oak Pantheon, and the record sounds like a truly heartfelt piece of music that the two members of the band invested in greatly. If I were to bring up a few minor flaws, though, they would be the harsh vocals and the production. The harsh vocals aren’t quite as powerful as they could be, and while they don’t detract from the overall music, they don’t add all that much either. As for the production, it’s definitely not bad, but more reverb would be welcome going forward. In fact, the lack of it is the only thing I can think of that holds the band back just a tad. If they’d manage to add more of it the next time around, it would push the atmospheric side, that from a purely creative standpoint is solid already, onto a whole new level.
Winter is almost here for everyone who live in a region that has four (or at least two) distinct seasons, and for most metal lovers among us, it means it’s time to put on those atmospheric metal records again that go so well with the season. The folky melodies and melancholic (but not overbearingly so) atmosphere of From a Whisper
fit like a fist in the eye when it comes to winter and music that should go hand in hand with it. It’s the perfect music to listen to while sitting by the fire and relaxing on a dark, cold winter night. What’s best about From a Whisper
is that it’s Oak Pantheon’s debut album, yet it sounds like it was crafted by seasoned veterans ("We Will Tear Down The Gods" is a strong candidate for best folk metal song of the year). Taking this into account, I’m sure we can expect even greater things from this two-piece in the future as they mature and gain experience. These days, though, I feel perfectly content setting my foot out the door while listening to Oak Pantheon wail "here comes the snow" into my ear. Indeed, a blizzard hit me straight in the face yesterday, but having music that complements such weather in the nicest way possible definitely makes it more tolerable to wade through the snow, the wind, and the cold.