Metal Review – Musk Ox: Woodfall

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Metal Review – Musk Ox: Woodfall
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Musk Ox: Woodfall
Neofolk, Progressive Folk
Self-release
June 17th, 2014
Release length: 1:05:59
Bandcamp
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According to the band’s biography, Nathanaël Larochette decided to pursue writing Neofolk music in 2005 after experiencing Kveldssanger by Ulver and Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays by Empyrium. In the years that followed, he would issue three demos between 2006 and 2008 that formed a trilogy which would help inspire a full-length release in 2007, as well as the the band’s name later down the line. In the years to come, Nathanaël was joined by a number of players, but the current line-up includes Raphael Weinroth-Browne on cello and Evan Runge on violin to make up what has become known as Musk Ox. After six years spent in writing mode, the group present the long overdue follow-up named Woodfall, an over one hour opus from Ottawa, Canada. But has it truly been worth the wait, or will this recording that was “Created with generous support from the City of Ottawa” (according to the official Bandcamp account) end up an epic flop?

Woodfall is told through five different parts that rely more on what one interprets from it. The subtle emptiness of the recording creates a truly intimate environment to all the songs that scream natural beauty. “Part 1 – Earthrise” sounds like a score that could easily accompany a sweeping shot to a Fantasy film, establishing a bright day among the snowcapped mountains during a long time trek, eventually giving way to the setting sun with the mountain man finding shelter as he slowly passing out for the night to the soothing melodies being created by the violin before a sense of danger hits suddenly on “Part 2 – Windswept.” The darker tone of the music is pushed by the booming notes of the cello well as the complexities from the acoustic guitar continue in the background, meshing both tension with moving passages that offer hints of relief now and again. But what truly stands out are the tight, faster notes by the five minute mark, adding a hint of whimsy and exploration that instantly grabs you before ending on a passionate note worthy of being compared to that of Epica-era Kamelot.

“Part 4 – Above the Clouds” doesn’t really set much as far as geographical terrain, but it’s clear it manages to do something completely different. We have gone past the snowy mountain range with this light hearted performance that tells a tale of adventure through a man who has lived many an epic quest for loot. This acts as his way of regaling those experiences to a younger audience, perhaps even his own child of grand kids in hopes the stories would carry on when he’s gone, something “Part 5 – Serenade the Constellations” captures perfectly. The sombre performance is laced with a great deal of emotion, like standing at the grave of the old man and listening to the family tell the stories to all who would listen. Truth be told, the song is so moving that it brought me to tears many times over. Sadly, both of these end up a huge departure from “Part 3 – Arcanum,” which doesn’t seem to establish much of anything, really. The song itself is well done and puts the focus on the cello at times to be a bit inquisitive against the beautiful violin performance and tighter material similar to that of “Part 2 – Windswept,” though not quite as indulgent in length.

With so many years of composition behind it, Woodfall is a truly beautiful testament to the capabilities of the members involved. With the exception of much of “Part 3 – Arcanum,” every song manages to convey a specific emotion or setting that is hard not to get wrapped up in, especially “Part 5 – Serenade the Constellations.” Between passionate and epic verses to genuine tear jerking movements, Musk Ox manage to accomplish quite a lot over the course of an hour and seven minutes, all of which stays you. Of course, a lot of this ends up based more on interpretation than anything. My experience and how I view the material could be drastically different to other people. But if there ever was an opus in the past ten years you need to hear, Woodfall is one of the very few that needs to be experienced in your lifetime.

01. Part 1 – Earthrise – 9:24
02. Part 2 – Windswept – 10:45
03. Part 3 – Arcanum – 17:37
04. Part 4 – Above the Clouds – 10:30
05. Part 5 – Serenade the Constellations – 17:48
Initial Pressing Score: 9/10

Musk Ox
Musk Ox

Digital review copy of this release provided by Musk Ox via Earsplit PR.