Album Review: Oak Pantheon – The Absence

Album Review: Oak Pantheon – The Absence
Reviewed by Robbie Maguire

Emerging from the vast, inspiring lands of Minnesota, Oak Pantheon proudly inject a sincere sense of their home states sweeping, inspiring vastness and beauty into ‘The Absence’, their third full length album.

The simplistic folk charms with which the acoustic guitar and cello generate makes for a radiant communion whilst subtle percussive flourishes add intriguing texture to opening salvo ‘Becoming None’. Shapeshifting with ease the song twists as driving anthemic blackened metal takes control and injects a lofty transportive effect. A theme that will present itself frequently through the album. As will the progressive leanings that Oak Pantheon clearly revel in. ‘Listen’ possesses a tenacious, punchy alternative magnetism. The anthemic clean vocals in the chorus decreeing “Weve had enough just listen” cut through powerfully as do the incisive riffs, and crisp and choppy rhythms which make for a short but compelling progressive musical journey.

There’s an assured sophistication to the contemplative and floaty ‘Beating Heart’ which affords a calming moment of respite. The poetic lyrical imagery portrayed is enriched further with joyous vocal harmonising and the beautiful orchestration has a hypnotic transfixing effect. The ease with which Oak Pantheon shift between far ranging musical styles is a gift with which they fully utilise to make their own all-encompassing sound. A sound that retains their identity and more pertinent, celebrates their personality.

Album Review: Oak Pantheon – The Absence

A viciously rampant mix of thrash, black and death metal explodes in ‘Decisions’. With its unrepentant fury as blast beats heighten the extremity, it thrashes and rages with a gutsy ferocity. Layered vocals adding texture as hoarse gruff bellows trade blows with icy screams and commanding direct shouts. It all works and despite the bombast and at times devastatingly heavy music there is never a compromise of melody. On the contrary Oak Pantheon must be applauded for seeking to continually inject melodic flourishes throughout their work. The strength in variety, character and execution of the songs must be applauded as should the production. An irresistible, clean sound graces the songs, and one whilst crisp very much allows the energy and emotive feel of the performances to resonate.

It would be hard to single out one highlight. However spellbinding epic ‘Silence We Plead’ is both poignant and captivating. With moments of melancholic Americana, soaring leads, sumptuous drum fills and almost ethereal cries of “Here I Fall” its undulating swells of gratifying metal builds to a crushing electrifying climax.

The mystique and intrigue with which ‘The Absence’ is shrouded in is magnified by the atmosphere that bubbles and flows throughout its mesmerising 40 minutes. Hinting at a real kinship and understanding of the progressive music titans that have paved the evocative musical paths that Oak Pantheon walk they adeptly create vivid imagery and emotion through their music. Somehow, they are able to more than hold their own in the sonically heavy stakes equally. These songs deliver with such a unifying force and with the additional aura you can’t help but be pulled in making for a wholesome, enriching and simply beautiful album. The ability to reflect emotion with each instrument and varying use of voice all combine so effortlessly makes for such an expansive and engaging musical and emotional journey. Unpacking and dissecting this album will continue for a long while. Oak Pantheon have bestowed a gift that keeps giving. For ‘The Absence’ is an uplifting, ambitious and wonderful triumph of progressive music.

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