Due to its widespread infestation on the world wide web, one man metal projects have a notoriously bad reputation as usually there is a very good reason as to why these guys don’t play in band. Luckily there are also some exceptions to this rule. One such exception, the Albion based Oakenshield in this case, ,should definitely not remain to go unnoticed amongst its fellow paganists. The man behind it all, Ben Corkhill tells all about his second opus and his fascination with Norse mythology.
Could you briefly sketch the history of Oakenshield?
Evolving from an old project of mine called Nifelhel, Oakenshield began its life in 2007. I wrote a full album of material, and produced a demo CD featuring four of those tracks, as well as a Bathory cover version. German label Einheit Produktionen heard the demo and got in touch with me about signing a deal, which was completed in July of the same year. The debut album ‘Gylfaginning’ came out in June 2008, and the follow-up has just been released, last month.
Why decide to go it alone rather than work in a a group. I mean solo work might work ok for ambient funeral doom or something but something epic like this with a lot of different instruments must have been a heavy task?
It is quite a lot of work to take on. I guess I allow myself to be quite self-indulgent with this project, to have it written and performed exactly how I envision it. Don't get me wrong, I love working with other musicians and play in three live bands, but Oakenshield is very personal to me because of where it has come from and what I've done with it so far. So in that respect, I like to just take control of the sound.
How did you learn to play all those instruments yourself?
Drums were my first instrument, which I've played since I was about 11 years old. I picked up guitar when my brother started learning when we were teenagers, and gradually got better, picking up bass from there. The tin whistle and recorder I only learned in recent years, but anyone could play them to the standard that I do, to be honest...
What do you find so compelling about the old Norse mythology?
I've always been captivated by history and mythology, and I first started researching into Norse mythology in particular several years ago when I discovered bands like Amon Amarth, Bathory and Enslaved. The whole subject surrounding Norse history and mythology was so interesting to me, and I began learning more about how much of an impact it had had on British history too, especially in the north of England where I'm from. These days I tend to be more interested in the historical aspects rather than the romantic mythology, I think it's a very compelling period of time indeed.
The old sagas are a fertile inspiration ground for many pagan bands. What sets you apart from the rest of the competition besides the fact that you do it all yourself?
Interesting that you call other bands 'competition', haha. I think on the latest album in particular, my use of traditional and folk melodies, and heavier use of traditional folk instruments, could be said to set the Oakenshield sound apart from others. Those aspects have been greatly influenced by bands such as Týr, Glittertind, Otyg, Myrkgrav etc and their use of traditional melodies. The lyrics on the album are very much history-based, rather than the mythological or fictional stories a lot of bands tend to focus on more. Also, the album is entirely themed around the Scandinavian influence on Britain during that time period, which I don't think any other bands have covered (except probably for Ravenage, another UK folk metal band).
Do you plan to keep this a solo project or would you consider putting together a live band?
I'd definitely consider it in the future, but as it stands I just don't have the time nor the money to think about getting a live band together. As I mentioned, I play in three other bands already, as well as working full-time, so the logistics would just be too much to handle.