1. The Old Corpse Road 6:37
2. The Wild Hunt 6:46
3. The Oakmen of Naddle Forest 11:22
Zero Tolerance Magazine
This three-track demo consists, in face, of fairly harsh black metal augmented by keyboards, but not as reliant on them as many pagan or folkloric black metal bands. A little like Korvus or even early Emperor, this is a highly effective blast of tuneful but not commercial BM, with the first, eponymous track maybe the best of a very good bunch. They even manage to pull off spoken passages without sounding ridiculous - no mean feat. Excellent stuff, and great guitars, too. 5/6
Self released, ‘The echoes of tales once told’ arrived just a year into OCR’s existence. What is immediately striking is that far from the youthful rumblings one might expect from a fledgling black metal band, OCR not only tapped into a rich vein of creative song-writing but they managed to couple this with a warm production sound far beyond the expected boundaries of a self-produced demo recording. Simply put, OCR exercise a strict quality control that many larger acts could benefit from and by cherry-picking only the three best songs from their recording (which originally featured five songs) OCR crafted a debut EP of exceptional quality. Opening with the organ-led blast of ‘Old Corpse Road’ the initial impression is that the band operate from a none-more-black metal base which incorporates a large part of Cradle of Filth’s early sound (before Dani’s ego eclipsed his ambition) but repeated listens offer up a greater depth that sees the band reference English folk music, pounding black metal and elements of classical music to sculpt grandiose mini epics that are ambitious, intelligent and quintessentially English. Elements of CoF, Darkthrone and Celtic Frost are all present and correct but with multi-faceted vocals, complex arrangements and lengthy tracks OCR immediately strike out as being one of the most original black metal acts to surface in some time. Better still is the melodic introduction to ‘the wild hunt’ which succeeds in being both beautiful and unsettling which is all the more apt considering the barrage of guitars that scream out of the blackness only to fade out into a spoken word piece of balladry that is part early My Dying Bride, part folk-inflected Isengard with a hint of Burzum’s icy and uncomfortable grandeur thrown in for good measure. A track that sees the lyrical invention of Shakespeare bound up in the blackest metal the UK has produced in many a year it is hard to understand exactly why the name of Old Corpse Road isn’t already plastered across UK metal magazines as this is certainly one of the UK’s most intriguing acts currently treading the boards. The final track goes far above and beyond the previous two with its twelve minute run time and myriad mood and style changes. Referencing the very best of avant-garde black metal ‘the oakmen of Naddle forest’ once again references early my dying bride but this times with hints of black metal alchemists Ulver amidst the icy bleakness of the raging guitars. Yet despite all the points of reference that can be offered up to draw you in, OCR are greater than the sum of their parts, offering up a unique sound that will be a revelation to those who lament the state of black metal in the UK. The immense talent that lurks at the blackened heart of this all-too-brief EP burns brightly and the professionalism and innate discipline that the band exercise over their music extends to all aspects of their output with a beautifully rendered artwork complimenting the EP perfectly and a stunning website for interested parties to immerse themselves in proving to be the proverbial icing on the cake. If you are a fan of innovative and stunning black metal then you need this now.
4. Hob Headless Rises 08:42
5. The Devil's Footprints 12:08
6. The Witch of Wookey Hole 10:05
Lords of Metal
'The Bones Of This Land Are Not Speechless', consists of three elaborate tracks, clocking at a whopping thirty minutes, that bring back the days that Cradle Of Filth were a proper black metal band instead of a cabaret act. Everything from the atmosphere, the spartan, slightly muffled but effective production to the Suffocation-style blasts, alternated by energetic polkas, and the versatile, unprocessed vocals almost screams 'The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh', although comparisons to early Akercocke are not out of place either. One can argue that Old Corpse Road bring nothing new, but the fact is that black metal so typically British has become a rarity, so 'The Bones Of This Land Are Not Speechless' is a very welcome exception. Add to this that these three songs are top notch in terms of songwriting and one can only conclude that this tastes for more!
Emphasising the folk aspects so wonderfully in evidence, OCR open their three track segment of this split EP with English legends The Meads of Asphodel with ‘Hob Headless Rising’ which kicks off with an almost Paradise Lost-esque piano opening before getting into its stride as the heaviest track I’ve heard from OCR yet. The shimmering build up quickly shifts into a freezing blast of pure black metal fury but, of course, this is Old Corpse Road and as superficially simple as the track might appear to be a whole host of disparate elements are incorporated into the whole, including a stunning folk section that rounds out the track rather beautifully. Once again the guitars are produced on just the right side of rawness – not over worked but retaining the heaviness you can expect from a live performance while the folk elements are captured perfectly with the strident strum of the acoustic backed up by tom-heavy drumming and the massed vocals sounding suitably like a medieval drinking party. ‘The devil’s footprints’ is equally impressive with a sweeping orchestral feel once again recalling the epic, stately missives of latter-day Ulver while the effect of the various vocalists (ranging from a Gorgoroth growl to a Dani yelp to the cleanly spoken passages so reminiscent of Aaron Stainthorpe) offers a sense of dynamic that can only enhance the effect of the heavier moments. It’s a remarkable track, possibly my favourite by the band to date, and with the band utilising so many progressive elements it is a mind boggling possibility that OCR will even better this amazing track when they come to record their full-length debut. One can only feel a little sympathy for the Meads who have to follow this astounding three song set – a task not unlike trying to climb a mountain with a boulder stapled to one’s shoulders (this is in no way meant to be disrespectful to the Meads, rather an affirmation that OCR have magnificently outperformed even the lofty expectations levied upon them after their excellent debut EP). The final track from this three song set, ‘The Witch of Wookey Hole’ opens amidst the sound of driving rain and sets a horror-movie tone with acoustic guitars set against a darkly symphonic backdrop and providing a suitably sinister atmosphere into which the band then pour a torrent of searing guitars and agonised screams. A rather more traditional black metal moment it positively seethes with rage and highlights the band’s ability to play straight blackened metal with a vengeance when the mood so takes them. After the hypnotic ‘the devil’s footprints’ it’s a blast of frozen water to the face that removes any doubt of how spectacular a band Old Corpse Road are.