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  • Writer's pictureSparky

Black Oak - '' The turmoil of the human world is a manifestation of our inner states''

’For us, Egolution means having the courage to delve deeply into oneself. It involves confronting the darkest corners of your being. Moreover, it requires bravery to embrace the light within you.

Egolution is the debut album of Sweden’s Black Oak. It is the combination of darkness and light, a multidimensional reality that encompasses all aspects of the human condition and emotion, led by furious guitar work and the vocals of Samuéla Burenstrand as Niklas Olsson (guitar) and Emil Fredenmark (Guitar) explain.

‘’For us, Black Oak represents a magical realm that encompasses everything - from the brightest light to the deepest darkness. It could be visualized as a massive tree under which we gather to share stories, explore existence, and undergo transformations together.

What bought you all together to create the vision?

‘’We have been a band since 2009 and the special thing about this band is that it has almost from the start been equally therapeutic as much as it is about music. We started exploring and discovering lots of different life views, spiritual teachings, and mindfulness gurus. This gradually spilled over into our music.

Is Egolution a positive or negative development?

‘’It's definitely a positive development. Certainly, it can feel like a never-ending battle to prevent the ego from taking over but the journey is about to become aware of how the ego manifests itself in our lives. The ego is a part of us, and the concept of ego-death is not a long-term solution. We have to identify our triggers and how they affect the world.

Do different ideas help inspire it and its thematic thread?

‘’Yes, we draw inspiration from a wide array of ideas and worldviews. One key aspect is the more mystical perspective, acknowledging that the world is far more than what meets the eye. There exists a hidden, yet tangible aspect of the world, one characterized by ideas, intuition, and deep contemplation.

‘’However, while it's easy to dive into philosophical musings about life and the world, we mustn't forget that as humans, we also inhabit a practical realm. This realm is filled with everyday stress, anxiety, challenging relationships, and doubt. This duality is what Egolution embodies - the struggle and the beauty of human existence, regardless of one's tendency to be contemplative and philosophical.

‘’The present moment can be a chaotic place, and it's this very chaos that we must navigate and manage. It's our everyday reality and we can't simply bypass it with lofty thoughts. We must face it, engage with it, and ultimately grow from it.

‘’Every band member contributes their ideas and perspectives. Typically, Emil and I (Niklas) brainstorm parts and bounce them back and forth until they form almost a complete song. Then, each member takes responsibility for their own instrument, rewrites, rearranges, and refines. A song isn't considered finished until everyone is happy.

‘’Egolution has been a part of us for many years (life, work, kids happened in the meantime), leading us to rewrite several parts and songs along the way.

Generating ideas comes easily to us, to the point where we have enough material for two more albums, or even more. The flow of ideas is never-ending.

The challenging and most time-consuming aspect is completing and committing to these ideas, as well as finding the time to do so.

How do you bring in different instruments such a violins etc?

‘’Both Emil and I (Niklas) work as composers and sound designers for film and games. Therefore, incorporating various elements comes naturally to us.

Trauma speaks inherently of experience, do the vocal styles reflect the emotions and history carried buy it?

‘’Yes, we always strive to align the lyrics' meaning with the style of the music and vocals. There's a time for singing and a time for screaming, metaphorically speaking. When one feels extremely sad, small, and filled with self-doubt, the typical reaction isn't to scream, but rather to hide and remain quiet. On the contrary, when filled with rage and anxiety, one is more inclined to scream out frustrations at the world.

The vocals carry so much emotion and styles from violence to beauty.

‘’Our singer, Samuéla, is a trained jazz singer and has been singing professionally for most of her life. However, she had never sung metal before joining Black Oak. Once she mastered the techniques, it simply became another tool in her repertoire, allowing her to blend and mix it with her pre-existing vocal techniques.

‘’Sometimes we create lyrics based on the song or a particular segment, and at other times, we compose music inspired by a lyric line. There's a constant interplay of ideas and concepts between the lyrics and the music. A riff might inspire a vocal idea, and if the vocals turn out particularly striking, we may even rewrite or tweak the music to better harmonize with the lyrics.

‘’Equilibrium Part 1’’ is anything but, whilst Part II is its polar opposite and beautiful? Is it solace or determination?

‘’The central concept of these two tracks revolves around representing extremes on both ends. As you've mentioned, status quo - indeed, but this applies to both tracks. They convey a sense of an underlying current that persists beneath everything, in a perpetual cycle. It’s this repulsion and tug-of-war that sets everything into motion.

‘’Part 2 encapsulates both solace and determination simultaneously. Another apt description for it would be 'surrender.'

What are your thoughts when focusing on the lyrics?

‘’A significant focus for us is how each individual's inner struggles tangibly impact the world around us. From this standpoint, it becomes easy to write from both a personal and a global perspective. The turmoil of the human world is a manifestation of our inner states, always interwoven. The inner world essentially gives birth to the quality of the outer world.

''We draw inspiration from everywhere. The outer world holds as much sway as the inner landscape. It's the sum of all these influences that truly inspires us. While it's challenging to remain unaffected by the media and the often-catastrophic picture they paint on a daily basis, one effective way we handle this is by channelling these feelings into our songs instead of bottling them up.

What are “’Shadows’’? Are they a sanctuary or a place to be feared?

‘’It's more about the dark place you find yourself in when you've hit rock bottom. You're in such a dire state that nothing really matters anymore. You succumb to the narratives of the ego and retreat into a dark corner where you can evade taking responsibility for your situation. So, in a twisted way it can become a false sanctuary.

Is aggressive music the best form of release for your ideas?

‘’Not necessarily, but so far, we've found that incorporating aggressive, heavy elements significantly expands the spectrum of emotions we can express through our music. To be fair, for me at least (Niklas), heavy aggressive music has always felt like home in one way or another. The catharsis that aggressive music provides is one of the best feelings in the world. That said, the realm of calmness, sadness, and desolation holds its own unique beauty when it comes to playing music.

What lured you into the genre?

‘’Most of us were introduced to heavy music from an early age. We began with staples like Metallica and even older bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, among others. This naturally progressed into heavier genres such as death metal, black metal, hardcore, metalcore, and various mathy tech stuff. There's always a more intense musical 'drug' to explore, so to speak.

‘’For Samuela, however, it was probably Black Oak itself that fully drew her into this genre over a decade ago.

The evolution of Black Oak?

‘’Evolution is a term to describe our process and progress. It keeps unfolding, whether we’re ready or not.

‘’Our philosophy with Black Oak is straightforward - to follow the creative spark and try not to interfere so much. We do this because it feels good. We're not involved in this to become metal entrepreneurs or build careers.

‘’We have a significant amount of new material that we're beginning to piece together slowly. Who knows what's next? A new EP in Swedish? Another concept album? A musical featuring ultimate fighters as actors? Time will certainly reveal all. What we do know is that we aim to release something new in the not-too-distant future.

Top 6 albums of all time?

Hard one. Without any order and today's mood :)

Underoath - Lost in the sound of separation.

Shpongle - Nothing last…But nothing is lost.

Meshuggah - Obzen

Machine Head - The more things change.

The Dillinger Escape Plan - Irony is a dead scene.

Deftones - White Pony

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