Review Summary: A breathtaking return from Canada's finest dark folk act that makes one thing especially clear: Woodfall was no fluke. Musk Ox are masters of the craft.
It’s impossible to write about Inheritance
without touching on the influence its creators have had on me. Around seven years ago, I discovered what felt like a different musical plane through the sweeping, instrumental arrangements of Musk Ox’s Woodfall.
I was hooked - completely captivated in every sense. This led me down a path of obsession in which I spent about six months completely unaffected by music with words. If it wasn’t dark folk or classical, it would have to wait. The stunning level of detail in these instrumental worlds had a depth to them you just couldn’t find in other music. I inadvertently stumbled across neofolk giants like Tenhi and Vali. Suddenly my record collection was filled with the likes of Schubert, Sibelius, and Mendelssohn. I still look back at this time as a vital turning point that forever shaped my taste in music, and I owe it all to Musk Ox.
After a long absence, the emotive Inheritance
reignites this passion with the hypnotizing effect of a burning ember. The inevitable speculation as to whether the Canadian trio’s return would be as epic as promised is knocked flat by a towering two-part title track. At a combined 22 minutes, the sometimes gorgeous, often intimidating stretch feels like a satisfying journey all in its own. Ominous and in constant motion, it takes a patient ear to catch all the details as a single guitar, cello and violin clash together as one potent heartbeat. Unlike its predecessor though, some of the most jaw-dropping moments of Inheritance
happen in more isolated spaces. Despite being shorter than any tracks on Woodfall
, the reflective and minimalistic “Memoriam” still manages to feel completely massive. This is due to a crawling build of simultaneously haunting and warmly resonating string melodies – perhaps the strongest of their career.
was a cinematic portrait of nature’s complete beauty – sprawling horizons and colorful trees hanging over rivers - then Inheritance
is its darker descendent laid bare. The branches here are hollow shells of what they were, a few remaining leaves barely holding on. An incredibly melancholic mood invokes a longing for what remains of our broken connection to nature. This vivid imagery is elevated by a level of passion you can just feel
escape from every note. There’s the airy, peaceful vibe of “Weightless.” And of course, there’s the urgent and playful skipping of strings on “Ritual” that recall a ceremonious and bizarre campfire dance. Clearly, recapturing your inheritance isn’t a half-assed process. It’s a trek through the most desolate, untraversed woodlands; a stripping of your clothing, dirt-covered hands stretched towards the sky. In the hands of the rustic Musk Ox, it’s certainly a spiritual experience.
When I get lost in a Musk Ox record, everything else seems so inconsequential; time around me just sort of pauses. Inheritance
maintains its mesmerizing grasp by painting its atmosphere with slower, but arguably more powerful strokes than its predecessor. It has some of the most restrained and somber moments from the act yet, but also some of the most brooding, even threatening sections. Founding member, Nathanael Larochette has never sounded better, his intricate way with the guitar adding a special quality throughout the album. Cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and violinist Evan Runge also make stunning contributions; Musk Ox wouldn’t be the same without their enthusiastic guiding hands. The instrumentation these three musicians conjure up is indescribably beautiful. Something about the precise guitar plucking and weeping strings seem to carry an echo here: a powerful, unmistakable aura. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s one of the best sounding dark folk albums I’ve ever heard. Musk Ox have proven yet again to be masters of lush, cinematic storytelling through their music. Similar arrangements have graced my ears, but never with the skeletal yet powerful weight of Inheritance.