Album Reviews International Music

Scorched Oak: ‘Withering Earth’ Album Review

Scorched Oak might be the heaviest slab of Stoner Rock with Doom tendencies we’ve received at Monster Riff in quite some time. Hailing from Dortmund, Germany, Scorched Oak forgoes the Psychedelic tendencies of fellow countrymen Colour Haze and My Sleeping Karma, opting instead for a ferocious attack that incorporates powerful riffs, pulsing bass lines, and impeccable drums. 

The trio has quite the album in Withering Earth, a 5-song, 48-minute descent into unholy tones and textures. Anyone who’s familiar with Scorched Oak’s previous work (a couple of singles and an EP) might be surprised by their approach on Withering Earth. On EP 2018, their longest track was 6:47 (and there were two songs under 4:00). Here, however, their songs range from 6:22 to 14:27, giving the band much more room to work with.

Withering Earth is a major improvement over their past catalog. For one, this album is a refinement of the band’s sound. EP 2018 was a broad collection of influences, and its production values and Linda’s vocals lent itself to the Occult Rock genre, while the treble in their guitar work kept them far away from Doom. In Withering Earth, Scorched Oak finds its sweet spot: Doom-laden Stoner Rock riffing with a Metal edge. 

Although it’s not essential to the band’s sound, we also want to give a shoutout to Maciej Kamuda, the Polish artist behind the album artwork. We don’t have a list of top album covers at this time, by this one would certainly make the list. 

Withering Earth Album Cover

About Scorched Oak

As we said at the top, Scorched Oak is from Dortmund, Germany, a town famous for its music culture. Magazine Rock Hard, Heavy Metal record label Century Media Records, and German music publication Visions all call Dortmund home. 

Scorched Oak is:

Linda – Bass, Vocals
Ben – Guitar, Vocals
Freed – Drums

Withering Earth Review

Withering Earth is split into five tracks, each one with a title taken from the earth itself. “Mountain.” “Swamp.” “Forest.” “Tide.” “Desert.” The organization of the album is similarly interesting. Each track is longer than the last, with “Mountain” spanning 6:22 and “Desert” finishing the album with 14:27. 

Track 1: Mountain 

“Mountain” is a powerful multi-sectional rocker. It opens on a powerful Desert Rock riff, one worthy of blasting while ramping over dune after dune. We soon find that “Mountain,” like the rest of Withering Earth, is a buffet of guitar riffs, filled with flourishes and explorations. “Mountain” is also the first taste of Ben and Linda’s vocals. The first few lines from Ben come to us through a distant radio, setting the stage for the rest of the album. After Ben’s voice trails off, Linda comes through—softly at first. Eventually, however, we find that Linda’s voice is powerful, delivering in a husky growl that sounds a bit like Anna Papathanasiou of Puta Volcano. 

Track 2: Swamp

“Swamp” opens with Linda’s growling vocals and a heavy, sludgy riff. She eventually hands vocal duties to Ben, who comes through in his own distorted growl. At first listen, “Swamp” feels like another multi-sectional track, but it’s really only four sections, with the second half being a repeat of the first. 

None of this is to say you should skip it. “Swamp” showcases the band’s full range as songwriters and musicians, playing loud and fast, quiet and slow, and ending with a variety of tones for a beautiful guitar solo.

Track 3: Forest

“Forest” starts dark and heavy like an old Black Sabbath track. Here, Ben shares the spotlight with a single guitar as they meander through the void for nearly two minutes until the rest of the band joins in. 

“Forest” alternates between loud Doom and bass-heavy builds. Freed’s drums are on point throughout, maintaining momentum throughout, building the tension through each section. 

Track three concludes in slow, Doom-laden sludge before breaking free in a ferocious guitar attack.

Track 4: Tide

After more than 20 minutes of heavy Stoner Rock with Doom tendencies, we were surprised to hear the opening notes of “Tide” hold some Eastern influences and a touch of cosmic energy. The diversion is short-lived, however, as those influences are soon tucked under a blast of fuzzy distortion. “Tide” is a pure rocker that’s great for headbanging.

Track 5: Desert

“Desert” is the last and longest song on Withering Earth, giving a total run time of 14:27. Like many of the songs on this album, “Desert” is a multi-sectional banger with a wide collection of guitar riffs. Once again, the Eastern influences are woven through the song but are slightly more pronounced this time. “Desert” even features a rarity: a fuzzy bass solo! 

Final Thoughts

Score: 8/10

Pros: Despite each song running for six minutes or more, the first few tracks are surprisingly tight. The band offers up a variety of cool riffs and avoids exploiting them—a common trap in this genre.

Cons: By the end of the album, Scorched Oak occasionally falls into the Stoner Rock/Doom trope of periodic self-indulgence. While both “Tide” and “Desert” are enjoyable tracks in their own right, they would benefit from some cutting down to deliver a tighter performance. 

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