Self-released on Friday 14 April 2023.
Egolution (2023) is the debut full-length album from Swedish post-metal band Black Oak.
Lyrically, we are told, Egolution (2023) is a concept album about the struggles we face as humans. Sometimes we fall on dark times, lost and uncertain about the way forward, at other times we soar and perform magnificently—mostly, we are somewhere in between.
The press release promises “a skillfull blend of darkness and light into a soulful unity […] ethereal dreamy atmospheres and shimmering melodies […] crushing riffs and pummelling rhythms”. Let’s see…
Labels are sometimes useful. “Post-metal” pushed the boundaries of heavy metal with more experimentation and a focus on atmosphere and emotion. Bands like Godflesh, Neurosis and Helmet walked the boundaries between metal, avant-garde, prog and industrial. Now, I know where I am with Godflesh (one of my favourite bands) and Helmet. This album, however…
Overall, this album left me feeling unsettled. One moment it soars with ethereal and dreamlike emotion, the next you are flung to the depths of hell to be pummelled by the most intense rhythms and punishing vocals.
While reviewing an album, I often go to sleep listening to the latest offering. This album woke me up. Twice. I felt so confused and on edge waking to this quickly contrasting soundscape that I switched it off and drifted off to a long and deep sleep with something a little gentler: Lamb of God. Forget any parental warning label, this album aught to come with a sleep warning!
When Burenstrand’s vocals are clean, they are like smooth crystal (is that a thing?); there is a focus and a tranquil beauty. When she unleashes the beast, her gruff, overdriven vocals could rival just about any male death or black metal singer—they are extraordinary.
Songs like “Doubt” (track 7) which opens clean and ends dirty is a perfect example of this band at its finest—focused and simple. I do wonder, however, if some of the songs over-reach and try to cram in too much, try to explore too many ideas all at once, such as the experimental introduction to “Transition” (track 10).
I expect that this album is a bit of a grower. Like a magic eye picture, with albums like this, it often takes time to let the details come into focus rather than just seeing the blur of the initial image. But this week, I don’t have time to test that out. This album left me physically dizzy as its multiple personalities competed for dominance, leaving me feel quite unsettled. But good art affects a change in the observer, drawing them into the experience. Maybe this album needs a mental health warning too—woah! it left me in a dark place.
Review score: 65%
Viral Propaganda PR contacted me inviting me to preview Black Oak’s debut album, thank you. I have no connections to either Viral Propaganda PR or Black Oak. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool. Many thanks to Viral Propaganda PR, and to Black Oak for continuing to create fresh, exciting new music.