I visited friends in Rochester, NY last weekend and my buddy suggested we check out this metal gig while I was in town. There were five bands on the bill at a venue called The Montage, so I knew it was going to be an interesting spread. There were a lot of grindcore acts, and one group that felt like Dr. Frankenstein bought a bunch of guitar pedals. But for me, there was one clear standout.
When Wandering Oak took the stage, my attention was immediately piqued. They commanded the attention of everyone in the room. They told a compelling and immersive story, with the musicians wearing black patterned face-paint and mostly regular civillian clothes. One of the guitarists was wearing a beast mask. The front man was wearing a leather vest with no shirt on underneath. Their presentation went just hard enough.
A Wandering Oak set feels like watching the band that would have been playing behind the Stronghold at Helm’s Deep – Around the campfire, someone has to bring the Rock, and these goblins are up to the task. Over the course of their act, I saw bigger smiles break out on the faces in the crowd, myself included. At one point the front-person, pulled out a long flute and everyone in the room lost their fucking minds over a restrained and ominous flute solo. Seeing them perform was genuinely the time of my life and I can’t recommend Wandering Oak enough. You can buy their LP on bandcamp and I think you should.
I reached out to the band and asked a few questions when I got back to Maine. Here’s what band member R. Bruce Pollard had to say about what Wandering Oak is all about:
Where is the idea for Wandering Oak coming from? You tell a super cohesive story on stage and I’m so curious what that’s influenced by? – I think the biggest influence is the idea of an Ent from Tolkien lore. A literal walking tree. It can also be seen as a kenning, which is a poetic device from Icelandic sagas. It’s meant to describe the music – heavy, strong and flexible, mandering yet organic. Also, the Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer is an influence.
What role do you think metal music plays in creating an anti-fascist future? What role do you think fantasy plays in that radical future? – Well, unfortunately metal music has a serious fascism problem nowadays. And it’s certainly an uphill battle to be openly leftist in a scene that is Rife with Centrist fence sitting and apologism. This is a far cry from [metal’s] roots, which were inherently left-leaning, anti-War, pro-drug, [and] inclusive. We believe in using the power of heavy metal to fight back, and prove that the left can indeed riff. As far as fantasy, I think it provides a sense of Escape for people who have been traumatized by the reality of Oppression under capitalism and the growing onset of fascism. I think there is a lot of inspiration that can be taken from fantasy literature because much of it in itself was based on real life.
What do you want people to leave a Wandering Oak show thinking about? – Mainly how every sub-genre of metal has Merit and can be used to create a greater whole. And think outside the box in terms of what heavy metal can be, and who can play it.
What’s the best way for people to keep up with you and support the project? – www.wanderingoakband.Bandcamp.com for music and merch, @wanderingoakband on IG, and look us up on Facebook!
Anything coming down the pipeline? – Starting pre-production on our second full length as we speak! It’s a huge step forward musically and we’re really excited to share it with the world. Should be done by the Fall!