Christopher Mole- guitars
Digby Brown- keyboards, piano
Catie Williams- flutes, recorders
Martin Collins- vocals
Richard Allan- bass guitars
Paul "Wib" Whibberley- drums and percussion
Northern Oak is a progressive folk metal group from Sheffield, England.
Founded in early 2006 during a wintry excursion to the Peak District, Northern Oak have been spreading their unique brand of flute-heavy progressive folk metal across Sheffield and the rest of the UK ever since. With a slew of gigs under their belt (including festival shows in Edinburgh, London and Nottingham) and their debut album 'Tales From Rivelin' released to positive reviews in 2008, the band have gone from strength to strength with their current lineup, and stand poised to unleash their second full-length 'Monuments', a darker and more complex offering than its predecessor, upon an unsuspecting public.
With a rich, organic sound that evokes the lush, tranquil landscape of Derwent Valley then cascades onwards into harsh, jagged chaos reminiscent of the landscapes of the Dark Peak, the music builds from rock-solid, groove-laden foundations and thunderous double-kick work into detailed harmonic overtures as guitar, flute and keyboards complement and harmonise with each other. Overlaying this are vocals which vary from whispered to spoken and screamed to roared, as the music requires.
Lyrically, `Monuments` deals with a number of philosophical topics through a loose, over-arching concept; each song is part of the final writings of a Victorian scholar on his death-bed, with each song discussing either an event in his own life or a historical, mythological or naturalistic story that fascinated him. The black despair he felt over his wife's death ('In These Hills') and a retelling of the myth of Gawain and the Green Knight ('Gawain') are two examples. In keeping with the band`s roots, the lyrics often display a strong connection to and appreciation of the endless majesty of nature.
A camping trip to the Peak District in frosty February 2007 saw the band bonding over their love of nature and establishing a creative direction from themselves, as well as deciding on a name- Northern Oak was born, and shortly afterwards the band became whole with the addition of flautist Catie Williams. The rest of the year was spent writing, practicing and recording material for a debut album, as well as two live performances at Under the Boardwalk which gave the band some necessary live experience. However, before the album was completed, founding drummer Daniel Loughran left the band due to moving away from Sheffield. Original vocalist James Harris also left the band, and both members were replaced; new drummer Jesse Harrison joined the band, as did vocalist Carl Aspinall, who was only able to perform one gig, and was then replaced by vocalist Martin Collins. Bassist Kimberley Sears also joined the band; previously, the bass parts for the album had been recorded by Chris Mole. In 2008, the self-recorded and self-produced Tales From Rivelin was released to positive reviews from music magazines such as Terrorizer and Zero Tolerance; the band received praise for their naturalistic and very English sound, as well as the overall quality of the self-released album.
The band gigged much more widely in support of Tales From Rivelin throughout 2008, including a show at the Gathering of the Clans festival in Coalville, and began to work on material for their next album; however, progress was slowed in early 2009 by the departure of drummer Jesse Harrison and bassist Kimberley Sears. A replacement bassist was found in Richard Allan, a friend of Mole and Collins’ from the University of Sheffield Rock Society, and new drummer Paul Whibberley (a friend of Williams’, who also played with her in the salsa band Cuatro de Diciembre) also joined the group. The new members meshed well with the band, and progress on new material began to accelerate- the band was also able to perform more shows, travelling to Edinburgh for the Highland Fire Festival and back to Coalville for their second appearance at the Gathering of the Clans festival.
Two rough, live EPs were released during 2009 and early 2010 as the band decided to showcase some of their new material in a lo-fi format to their fanbase; both were made available free of charge while the band began to gear up for the recording of the follow-up to Tales From Rivelin. Recording began in earnest in 2010, and took from March to October of that year; again, the album was recorded largely by Chris Mole in a variety of locations. Drums were recorded at Sheffield University’s ‘Soundhouse’ studio with assistance from Harriet Holman, a friend of the band, guitars were recorded at Birmingham’s ‘Hellfire Studios’ and the vocals and flutes were recorded at the home studio of Loo Yen Yeo, vocalist in Cuatro de Diciembre and good friend of Williams’. The album was once again produced and mixed by Mole, mastered by Lee Redfern at ‘Redfern Studios’, and released with cover artwork by Travis Smith (Opeth, Devin Townsend, Nevermore, etc.) at a grand launch show in December 2010 at the Corporation, Sheffield- an evening of burlesque, masquerade masks and support from black metallers Old Corpse Road saw Monuments launched with a fanfare. Shortly after this, founding keyboardist Elliot Sinclair left the band; he was moving back down to London and unable to continue gigging and practicing with the group. New keyboardist and violin player Digby Brown, another friend of theirs through the University of Sheffield Rock Society, joined the band shortly after.
2011 was an amazing year for the band; Monuments received some excellent press attention (see the ‘Press’ link on the Discography page for examples) and two live performances at Bloodstock Open Air Festival (one acoustic, one electric) garnered the band a great deal of positive press and some glowing reviews. Later in the year, the Zero Tolerance-sponsored Great Exhibition tour in November of 2011 alongside Old Corpse Road, Eibon la Furies and The Prophecy, brought the band’s show to a wider audience across the UK. The band continued to gig throughout 2012 while also beginning to work on new material for their third album, promoting Monuments to audiences across the UK. Early 2013 saw the band supporting Old Corpse Road on the first leg of their ‘Tis Witching Hour tour, to promote the release of their debut album, with shows in Darlington and Hull. At the time of writing (August 2013) the band have nearly completed writing for their third album and intend to begin recording towards the end of the year.
Late Autumn 2006 (founder member).
Date of birth:
Timmermann`s Fruity Beers
Tea (with milk in it. Strong, though. Want to see the spoon stand up!)
Death metal both melodic and brutal (Amon Amarth to Carcass to Bloodbath), black metal either melodic, symphonic or grim (Dark Fortress to Emperor to Anaal Nathrakh), nice and atmospheric folk metal such as Summoning, Agalloch or Falkenbach, some thrash metal and some more mainstream metal such as Lamb of God. I also love my classic rock and prog- Hendrix and Pink Floyd have been particularly big influences. And finally, I`m a big fan of classical music (especially Vivaldi, Mussorgsky, Grieg, Beethoven, Mozart) and a huge fan of video game soundtracks by composers such as Nobuo Uematsu, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Koji Kondo, and the guys who composed the Mass Effect soundtrack- Jack Wall and Sam Hulick.
Jimi Hendrix is my biggest guitar hero, but also David Gilmour, Michael Amott and Alexi Laiho.
Nature in all it`s forms- sunlight, snow, autumn leaves, spring rains. The Peak District, especially the views from Snake Pass. Music itself- melodies and harmonies.
When I helped form Northern Oak back at the very beginning of 2006, I had no idea we`d get quite as far as we have done today- I knew I wanted to take it further than I`ve taken any of my previous projects, but I had no idea that I`d be writing a biography right now to go on our shiny-looking official website, in support of our first album, an album which I helped write, played on, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered. It`s a pretty humbling thought, really.
As time has gone by and we`ve gotten more involved with Northern Oak, I`ve found my thought patterns developing with regards to the music; I`ve begun to take real inspiration from the beauty of nature, and sometimes merely driving over Snake Pass on a sunny day can have me gaping at the scenery and send floods of ideas into my mind. Not all of those make it through, but those that do I hope will evoke the same kind of images in the heads of those who hear them.
Ultimately, I`ll be happy if people continue to enjoy the music I make. After all, isn`t that the final goal of any musician?
Favourite Northern Oak song:
Arbor Low/Gawain (although the new one Only Our Names Will Remain is becoming a close second!)
Guitars: Schecter Hellraiser C-1 (w/Original Floyd Rose, EMG 81 pickups) in cherry red finish, Gibson Explorer `76 Reissue in natural finish.
Date of Birth:
Real ales and ciders
Folk (Flook, Shooglenifty, Peatbog Faeries, Kila, Bellowhead, Afro Celts, Jethro Tull etc.)
Salsa (Yerba Buena, Salsa Celtica, Orquesta Gitano, Johnny Pacheco, Buena Vista Social Club etc.)
Folk and symphonic metal (Therion, Wintersun, Korpiklaani, Falkenbach, Eluveitie, Moonsorrow etc.)
Medieval, renaissance and baroque (Bach, Telemann, Albinoni, Handel, Tallis, Dowland etc.)
…and so much other stuff that I can’t really pigeonhole into any particular category (Dead can Dance, Arcana, Dark Sanctuary, Tool, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Sigur Ros etc.)
Ian Anderson, Michael McGoldrick, Brian Finnegan, James Galway, Ian Judson
The sea, valleys and mountains, forests and moors, history and mythology of the British Isles, solitude and being left alone with my own random thoughts.
Although I have what you might call a “classical” musical background, I`ve always had a strong love of improvisation and composition. Playing in an 11 piece salsa band has also been an amazing experience, I`ve enjoyed learning so much about a completely different style of music and its history that I probably subconsciously bring what I`ve learnt to all my playing (salsa metal anyone?!). Having dabbled with a variety of instruments in the past, including stints as a guitarist and bassist in various bands, I`ve always felt most at home with the flute. It`s an instrument of contrasts – the low tones are so rich and breathy and the higher register so bright and clear that I sometimes think it sounds like two totally different instruments. I very much enjoy the freedom that I have playing with Northern Oak, and I love how our songs seem to be constantly evolving and becoming stronger. My only fear is getting stuck in a musical rut where I`m constantly just playing one style of music but I certainly don`t see that happening anytime soon.
Date of Birth:
Tea (When I say `Assam` you say `Lovely!`)
My all time favourite band would have to be the legendary scumdogs of the universe - GWAR! If you want an idea of what I`ve been listening to you can find me on last.fm as KnightErrant, for now though here are some genres and bands that I enjoy.
Grindcore - Pig Destroyer, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, The Berzerker
Metal - Converge, Today is the day, My Dying Bride
Industrial/EBM - Ministry, KMFDM, VNV Nation
Visual Kei/J-Rock - Malice Mizer, Dir en grey, Versailles
Other - Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer, Emilie Autumn, Silent Hill soundtracks
JR Hayes, Steve Austin, Jacob Bannon
`Words!` in all their forms, films, tentacles, the burning inside, alcohol, the obscure, waist coats and other fine attire.
First off I would like to make it clear that I hate writing bios. For all my introspection and over-analysis, they show up just how much I don`t get about people or my own peculiar brand of madness.
I wasn`t the most obvious choice to be the vocalist for Northern Oak, as a grind aficionado who did not listen to any folk metal before joining. However they were afflicted by the `Curse of the Northern Oak Vocalist` where they had a ridiculous turnover and being convinced by the quality of the Oak`s music, I decided to throw my hat into the ring. Nearly two years down the line [yes, it took the others that long to convince me into writing this] I have no regrets. Having had the joy of bringing some damn good metal to audiences around the UK and gaining some of the finest companions I could hope for.
A big thing for me is Purpose and so when it comes to my lyrics I need them to pose a question, raise some idea or concept. Be more than the sum of its parts. For me to be truly satisfied with my words, they need to be like a Philip K. Dick novel; a perfectly formed world designed to convey a point or philosophy in the most effective and aesthetically pleasing manner. So as you can guess I`m rarely happy with what I`ve written and can get very pretentious and annoying!
Finally I have a confession to make, the fine attire business is my fault. 2008 was the year of the Dark Knight and Sweeney Todd, at which point I had an epiphany that waistcoats are awesome and began to have a corrupting influence on the rest of the band...
Date of Birth:
Tea (milk and two, nice and strong, ta love)
My two favourite bands of all time are Million Dead and Mclusky, although I reckon I have a fairly eclectic taste in music (leaning towards folk metal of late, however) so it`d be better for me to list a few instead: 3 Colours Red, Art Brut, At The Drive-In, Attila The Stockbroker, Biffy Clyro (pre-Puzzle), Billy Bragg, Elton John, Ensiferum, Frank Turner, iForward, Russia!, Future Of The Left, Gogol Bordello, Jarcrew, Jurassic 5, Lighthouse Family, The Mars Volta, Plan B, Powerquest, Sabaton, Saul Williams, Sham 69, Simon & Garfunkel, That Fucking Tank, Turisas, The Young Knives, Yourcodenameis:milo.
Steve Harris, Bruce Foxton, Julia Ruzicka, Andy Rourke, Juan Alderete, James Johnston
Bass guitar, Stones bitter, Million Dead and Burton Albion FC.
Initially, excited as I was to join this here band, I was also anxious about whether or not my arrival would have a detrimental effect; frankly, folk and metal aren`t normally the first things that spring to mind when you consider a (relatively) young football mad northern lad. However, we seemed to complement each other straight from the off, with me bringing cheerfulness and simple but effective basslines to the table whilst simultaneously being forced to up my game by virtue of being in a band with some of the most talented (and downright sexy) musicians I have ever had the fortune to play with.
The other main aspect was that it had encouraged me to think more about and appreciate nature, nature which I had been surrounded by from cradle to adulthood on our dairy farm but failed to fully appreciate at the time. I still work there time and again, and as hard as the work is the beauty of the English countryside never fails to surprise and delight me.