Old Corpse Road – On Ghastly Shores Lays the Wreckage of Our Lore Review

“I’m gonna take my hearse down the Old Corpse Road, I’m gonna… hooooowl ’til I can’t no more.” I’m running out of decent black metal introductions. Like, how many dead horses do I have to beat in order to get across that, gee whizz, ye fuckwads, it’s another black metal album. I guess I could go into how these Brits are somewhere in concept between Winterfylleth and Primordial, but I don’t know, that sounds as fresh as quarantine-old crackers on top of that soup that’s been “aging like a fine wine” at the back of my fridge. Maybe I could make some longwinded metaphor about the promo bin, that it’s like an open field and black metal is a landmine waiting to take your leg off and ruin your day, but that feels about as banal as a breakfast of Grape Nuts and an unpeeled orange. The bottom line? Black metal’s back, bitches. Is it the sweet, sweet honey to your Grape Nuts? Or the chalky pith on your old and slightly too squishy orange?

Old Corpse Road is a black metal/folk quintet from Darlington, N.E. England. Proving quietly prolific with a catalog of a demo, two splits, and two full-lengths since 2007, these Brits offer On Ghastly Shores Lays the Ruins of Our Folklore, their third full-length focusing on “breath[ing] new life into the dark fecund myths and legends of England.” Sporting second-wave Darkthrone worship with blastbeats, tremolo, and ghastly shrieks, it also hoists an epic atmosphere somewhere between Summoning and Finntroll—balancing grandiosity and cheese like nobody’s business. Ultimately, while On Ghastly Shores… is far from perfect and showcases flashiness over substance, it remains a refreshingly lighthearted listen in a genre saturated with excessive seriousness.

If Alestorm were a black metal group, I would imagine they would sound like Old Corpse Road. As such, the best tracks are those that balance base textures of tremolo and shrieks with epic and/or pirate-y atmospheres. Tracks like “Demons of the Farne” and sixteen-minute behemoth “The Ghosts of the Ruinous Dunstanburgh Castle” recall classic horror movie soundtracks, balancing simple but ominous riffs with no-holds-barred synth, symphonic, and choral flourishes. Meanwhile, tracks like “Black Ship,” “Sea Fire,” and interlude “As Waves Devour Their Carcasses” get their “yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum” on with pirate-flavored synths and waltzier rhythms. Ironically, while longer track-times open up more opportunities for tedium, Old Corpse Road‘s lengthier offerings are the better of the bunch, thanks to their simple yet hypnotic riffs and organically sprawling morbid atmosphere, which takes front and center with outlandish but effective tricks like chants, operatic arias, and organ.

While the lengthier cuts are impeccably solid, the shorter tracks of On Ghastly Shores… are about as airtight as Swiss cheese. Opening title track and “Harbingers of Death (Voices in the Tempest)” are full of limp riffs, awkward transitions, and overstuffed textures of every variety—a true clusterfuck of too many ideas. However, these tracks do adhere unwaveringly to a macabre ‘n maritime “ghost ship” theme, making closing instrumental “WaterLore” particularly damning. Its tone is abruptly melancholy and jazzy (?), sounding far too serious for the bombastic and cheesy atmosphere that On Ghastly Shores… excels at. Truth be told, while Old Corpse Road combines the folkiness of Finntroll, the seafaring atmosphere of Alestorm, the epic songwriting of Winterfylleth, and the symphonic macabre of Carach Angren, they play it too close to the vest, ultimately concocting an album that’s a hell of a lot of fun, but little else.

On Ghastly Shores Lays the Wreckage of Our Lore is an all-around fun album. The best tracks utilize a balance of grandiose atmospheric tricks and simple riffs to get their point across, resulting in an immersive experience that could be the black metal soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean… with Vampires! It balances symphonic, folky, and epic atmospheres quite well, resulting in one of the cheesiest and most lighthearted black metal experiences you’ll have all year. Old Corpse Road is far from being the pith on the orange, and instead settles for being a sprinkle of sugar on your Grape Nuts—tasty enough for some, but not enough to justify buying Grape Nuts.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Trollzorn Records
Websites: oldcorpseroad.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/oldcorpseroad
Releases Worldwide: May 15th, 2020

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