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Raphael Weinroth-Browne



Album Cover

Musk Ox is a three-piece from Canada, fronted by classically trained guitarist and unrepentant metal-head, Nathanael Larochette. Nothing spectacular about that, right? I’m sure that you can name at least one other Canadian three-piece (Rush, anyone?) Well, how’s this for spectacular, then? The trio also features cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and violinist – and newest member – Evan Runge and they perform chamber music with the musical passion and emotional heft of metal. The group’s second full-length release (to go along with three EPs), WOODFALL is a suite in five parts, evoking the peace and serenity of beautiful and untouched Canadian landscapes. The piece runs approximately an hour in length and features some of the most breathtaking original chamber music that I’ve heard in a very long time.

Musk Ox (Evan Runge, Raphael Weinroth-Browne and Nathanael Larochette) (publicity photo)
Musk Ox (Evan Runge, Raphael Weinroth-Browne and Nathanael Larochette) (publicity photo)

The pastoral “Earthrise” gives way to an impression that, viscerally, feels like its title: “Windswept.” With the violin and classical guitar taking the lead, separately and in tandem, the cello holds the bottom end, acting as much as a percussive instrument as a stringed one. When Weinroth-Browne does bring his instrument to the fore, it is amazingly effective. “Arcanum” is quite a powerful piece and it’s here that Larochette’s metal upbringing truly shines through. I think, that in his utter arrogance, this is the kind of guitarist that Yngwie Malmsteen fancies himself to be. Yngwie would shove his head through a wall trying to play this stuff! An unbridled sense of serenity ushers in “Above the Clouds,” alternating with a charging cello, possibly indicative of storm clouds brewing. Again, there is a very metallic sturm und drang emotional roller coaster ride going on here and features some of my favorite moments of the entire suite. As night falls, it is time to “Serenade the Constellations.” Runge and Weinroth-Browne play harmonics for much of the first piece, with a lilting Larochette guitar part playing over that bed. Runge occasionally steps out for a solo part or joining the guitar for more harmony playing, creating a nice Celtic folk ambiance. Though the album filled with great, heart-stopping moments throughout, this final 17-plus minute piece is probably my favorite overall. The five separate impressions of WOODFALL has taken us full circle, from pastoral morning to beautiful night and back again. Okay, Canada… I guess this makes up for Celine Dion and Loverboy… but just barely, eh?