Oakenshield is a relatively new English "Viking metal" band and this is technically the first release, although two CDs have been released under the former name, Nifelhel. Like an increasing number of bands, Oakenshield is manned by just the one person - which obviously brings its advantages and also disadvantages. Ben Corkhill, the man with the master plan, is very interested in Viking and old Norse mythology and obviously this comes across in the music with the lyrics very well - the title of this demo and his upcoming album, "Gylfaginning" is the first book of the Prose Edda containing tales of the creation and destruction of Earth according to Norse mythology.

The music here is very much in the same vein as that of bands such as Bathory and Ty´r - very chunky and epic music with folk influences creeping their way in there as well. Black metal style rasping vocals as well as multi-layered sounding clean vocals sit on top of guitar, bass and keyboards and all sound very solid and well done. The CD runs through at a modest pace keeping the whole thing sounding as epic as possible - there are not any issues of pace or Ben's ability to play these instruments at all. The lyrics are very well done, also including verses from the Poetic Edda but to understand them fully you really need to have read the book.

Like I said though, as well as there being advantages of there being one person involved here such as the direction of the music and such, there are some clear disadvantages. The most prominent are the drums that sound a little flat and have clearly been created on a computer, but unfortunately there are always issues of cost and lack of able personnel so I don't hold this against the music too much. As the drums are programmed they do also inevitably lack the feel of a fleshy, squishy human sat behind a kit and so do also sound a little uninspired. The drums are not the main focus of this sort of music though and so these problems are not detrimental to your enjoyment of the music at all. The music as a whole does lack a bit of variety also, but this is not uncommon in the whole field of this kind of epic, Viking music.

In perspective though, this is material from the first full album this guy has written and recorded and as well as that, Ben plays the guitar, bass, keyboards, recorder, performs the vocals and programs the drums by himself and so this is definitely something to be proud of. The demo is enjoyable and far surpasses anything I would have imagined from one very young man at just the very beginning of his musical life.