From England’s Midlands we have some rustic and robe covered power metal. Tied to England’s mythology and heritage, Dark Forest do not hold back on these themes. Similar to how Solstice and Forefather have their ties to ancient folklore of England, Dark Forest deliver it in a power metal style. They bring us across the stream to the Otherworld and let us roam around the wonders that is ancient Albion with Oak, Ash & Thorn.
There are some old vibes and magic at work with this album. I hear a lot of 80s traditional metal influences but also some later era US power metal sounds mixed in. It is an old style, but not quite retro – instead, it is something of a classic rooted flair with tinges of raw power and olden melodies. I kept hearing Brave New World era Iron Maiden bits in this too. In the vocals sometimes with a post-reunion Bruce Dickinson, but mostly the guitarwork particularly in the chords and structures. Just something about it reminds me of that album, which I like! You can especially hear it in “Wayfarer’s Eve,” “The Relic” and “Eadric’s Return.” The music is quite uplifting and for these troubling times, it can make for a pleasant listen.
I can see why they released “The Midnight Folks” as a single, it is really catchy all the way through! The super energetic riffs and harmonies just reel you in. It continues on with “Relics” in using the catchy harmonies, but trading a bit of the energy for some feel-good riffage. It’s the kind of riffs you want to drive down a highway at night with the windows down and let the wind rush through your hair. This is the overall mood Dark Forest has created on Oak, Ash & Thorn – a blend of traditional metal and power metal that is accentuated with rustic and medieval movements.
Some of my favorite parts come out from “Avalon Rising” and “Oak, Ash & Thorn.” These longer songs allow for the band to explore a bit more of their sound and they really make use of the time as there are hardly any moments of filler in either song. “Avalon Rising” has the catchy sing-along Iron Maiden like choruses that you can pick up on really easily. It builds up nicely and paces well for seven minutes with a snazzy guitar passage full of harmonies, solos, and interludes to break it up. It is a powerful song that leads up to the self-titled track which in its own right is just as powerful. “Oak, Ash & Thorn” is the epic of the album and I think they saved up for it. Beginning with a vocal solo and then hitting it right off into a 6/8 riffing that creates a more mellow feeling. It all builds up to the bridge after the solos, with softer guitars complementing the vocals and here Dark Forest invoke their rustic magic to good use. It has become a favorite of mine from the album, even as it almost nears twelve minutes in length.
With Josh Winnard’s storyteller-like voice and the mystical lyrics, Dark Forest takes you back to a much wilder England full of pagan rituals and Fae folk lurking around. If you are needing some sing-along, fist pumping power metal with a rustic flair in the vein of Twisted Tower Dire, Iron Maiden, Virgin Steele, and late 80s era Running Wild, I would pick this up for a listen.
Favorite track: Oak, Ash & Thorn
Album rating: 92/100