Thursday, February 02, 2012

Oak Pantheon: The Void (2011)


I first read about Oak Pantheon on Metal Bandcamp. MaxR indicated that their album The Void had managed its way onto a number of year-end lists. I haven't seen it on any lists myself, but considering it's a name-your-price download, and the art is pretty cool, I thought that was a strong enough recommendation.

The Minneapolis band plays a style of black metal that's a little folksy and a little shoegaze-y. Most striking about their sound is the prevalence of major chords and the overall uplifting mood of the whole thing. The closest comparison I can come up with is Deafheaven, but even Deafheaven's work, while sometimes pretty, can't fairly be called uplifting. Several bands have tried to make black metal positive lately, usually with disastrous results. But for some reason, it mostly works on The Void.

Why would it even occur to someone to make positive black metal? I wouldn't try to concoct a meat-flavored soda, which makes about as much sense. But I suppose if you're going to do it, you should give it a name and album cover that aren't going to give any hints that you're doing something different. Liturgy would not have drawn so much ire if they had simply made a terrible album, but not gone around advertising how different they are. So Oak Pantheon have at least avoided that to help them gain acceptance among the black metal fan base. Whether it will lead to any more success is doubtful.

In any case, they take the typical black metal tropes of tremolo riffing and rasped vocals and then play some catchy major chord melodies over the top. It's pretty much as simple as that. And I can't explain why (perhaps it's humility) but it's largely successful. The first track is not terribly strong, and the acoustic interlude is a throwaway, but there are some odd gems here.

The Verdict: Oak Pantheon have succeeded at the strange task of creating positive black metal, where others have failed. Considering the price, you should check it out. I give The Void 3.5 out of 5 stars.


  1. I'm curious why you are so hard on these guys for being 'positive,' but Christian black metal gets a pass...

  2. I'm referring to the music, not the lyrics.

  3. And I wasn't being hard on them. And Christian black metal doesn't get a pass. There's a lot of Christian metal that's awful. Click here to see all my posts on Christian metal.

  4. It was featured in a few of the more obscure lists in No Clean Singing's 2011 listmania. Perhaps stretching it a little, but I like the album a lot :)

    I wouldn't call it positive though, more mellow or melancholic. Similar to the feeling I get when I listen to The Flight of Sleipnir - Essence of Nine in fact.