Oak Pantheon’s In Pieces is one of those scarce, exceptional gifts that I stumbled upon this past year, with its well-crafted songs and ingenuity that demands repeated listens. More than that, each new spin brought a sense of newness that rarely accompanies albums in this tradition. Consisting of a catchy style of atmospheric and folk-oriented black metal, along with many other influences, it takes a genre that has gone through many twists and turns to creates a gem which stands a head above most of its peers and could very well be leading towards a future release that is an “instant classic.” No doubt, this one already comes very, very close.
If the name did not clue you in, Oak Pantheon began as an Agalloch-“inspired” band, although perhaps a clone is a more fitting term. This often happens in music, and now and again, one of those bands stumbles onto doing their own thing which rivals, if not overcomes, their first inspiration. Taking that initial idea, melding it with an Opeth-ian mindset, as well as thrash and heavy/power metal, In Pieces is without a doubt one of the catchiest albums I have ever heard, with riffs that are absolutely mind-blowing, and vocal lines that demand you sing along. Take the opener, “Dawn as a New Day,” which starts off with a great riff that takes no time in showing its audience what the band are all about. As the vocals kick in, every part of me that loves this genre is satiated, and about mid-way through, it truly becomes something special. Things quiet down a bit, then suddenly erupt into an absolutely insane riff and powerful screams. By the time the first song was over, I was more than intrigued and knew that In Pieces will be something worth remembering.
Oak Pantheon make great use of creating atmosphere with softer moments, where a clean vocal grabs you before it becomes a whole new monster, and that monster is terrifying indeed. Previous releases relied more on a black metal scream that was intense, but now they mix it with various vocal styles that make those screams stand out even more. In Pieces places Oak Pantheon alongside bands such as Altar of Plagues, and if this album is any sign of the progression they can make between albums, their next offering is something we should all be anticipating.
Featuring two members, some limitations do exist. For one, they do not play live, and likely never will, which is a downright shame. It is also possible that creating such music limits the possibilities of doing so, although Panopticon did it so they honestly don’t have much of an excuse. The drums are also programmed, which makes the cymbal sounds in particular come off as flat. Overall however, what these two manage to create stands neck to neck with anyone you can namedrop, and that is pretty impressive for such a young band from Minnesota. The amount of things going on here is hard to wrap your head around, as it is constantly shifting and exploring new territory. As an example, “Climb” goes full-on thrash metal for a minute, and the sweeping arpeggios of the next track, “Float,” go right into the classic Gothenburg style. A song later, “Enormity” is basically an ode to their progressive roots, and it includes a haunting violin section that melds into a beautiful crescendo of riffs and screams. Essentially, In Pieces is a fitting title, for it is a combination of everything metal has to offer wrapped up into one exception release.
For Oak Pantheon, music is meant to be an escape—a journey into another world. The whole thing feels like a novel, striving to tell an epic story and drag the listener into the music so they completely experience it. The lyrics are philosophical inquiries on the nature of God and question the meaning of existence, but In Pieces is simply telling a story—a soundtrack for the thoughts that drift by. What the listener experiences in this epic adventure is based more on what they bring with them; Oak Pantheon is just here to help you along. This is undoubtedly a fine companion for wherever your inner world takes you—one you will not want to forget.
01) Dawn as a New DAy
05) Grasp the Apparition
06) Pavor Nocturnus
07) Burden of Growth