NORTHER is a band with a bit of an odd history, at least in the few years leading up to their break-up. After the release of what I consider to be their best album “N,” they promptly booted vocalist and founding member, Petri Lindroos, because of his conflicting schedule with ENSIFERUM (or so I’ve heard). Following this, they adopted Aleksi Sihvonen [MEDICATED, ex-IMPERANON], an extremely competent singer and performer, and released “Circle Regenerated” (2011). Ultimately, when working life became too hectic for Kristian Ranta (guitars), Tomi Luoma [MACHINAE SUPREMACY] – another excellent musician and performer – took his place. With perhaps their strongest line-up at that point – Sihvonen, Luoma, Jukka Koskinen [WINTERSUN], Tuomas Planman (keyboards), Heikki Saari [FINNTROLL] – the band then, instead of releasing an album, called it quits and played their final show at a big festival in the Czech Republic, of all places. So, it was a weird wind-down for this band, following the release of “N” in 2008. Today we’re revisiting it to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its release.
Perhaps this album feels so consistently good because the guys don’t experiment much with their sound. This album has a good number of songs that keep up a consistent level of excellence throughout. It starts out with the phenomenal “My Antichrist,” a hard-hitting and high-energy death metal song that is just what you need to start off a great album, and is followed by “Frozen Angel,” which blends gorgeous deep clean vocals with Lindroos‘ harsh growls in the best way. It is a bit of a shame that the (arguably) two best songs on the album are right in the beginning though.
The great melodies and energy continue into “Down,” though I’m not 100% sure I’m on board with all of the lyrics. I like the way “Down” starts out wild a sort of muffled intro, almost like you’re listening to the song from a distance on a radio, then builds up into your traditional death metal. There’s a satisfying chorus with a great groove for some semi-mellow headbanging. “Down” then flows nicely into “To Hell,” which has a similar feel though a different theme, centering more on the narrator’s own sins. “To Hell” again features the clean backing vocals, which I really enjoy. There could have been more of them on this album.
The album takes a turn for the romantic with “Saviour,” which I’ve always found to be a rather beautiful song, but a non-metalhead friend once pointed out that it’s a bit odd to hear a romantic song sung by what sounds like an angry guy screaming. Frankly, I don’t think Lindroos sounds remotely angry, but that’s a detail I don’t expect people who don’t enjoy death metal to pick up on. This track resonates particularly if you’ve had a relationship where you’ve had to be apart for any great length of time (long distance, or extended work trips, as a couple examples), with lyrics like, “Please tomorrow, bring her back to me” and “A day without her is a wasted one.”
“Black Gold” has a cool intro, with dual guitar lines that almost sound a tad alternative, before the song kicks off with its fast drums and shredding. While this isn’t perhaps the catchiest song on the album, it does have some pretty noteworthy guitarwork. Something about this song feels like autumn to me, but don’t ask what. Otherwise, this track largely follows suit with the rest of the album. “We Rock” is a sort of self-empowerment anthem, with the “do your own thing and screw anyone who isn’t okay with it” sort of mindset.
I’d almost consider “Almost & Never” to be another romantic song, except for the fact that lyrically it seems to relate more to a somewhat bitter and heartbroken break-up. I do love the chorus in this one, as well as the musical progressions. Considering many of the songs on “N” adhere to a strict style (particularly in the guitar), I find it interesting that some songs, like this one, stand out from the others. “Tell Me Why,” on the other hand, is another one of the songs that holds the high standard well but doesn’t manage to really stand out in any way.
Once again, the album takes a romantic turn with “If You Go,” which has a lullaby-style intro before it gets heavy. Heavily centered around the backing vocals, with the growls only in the chorus, this proves a second time that love songs and death metal can work together beautifully. Then, in a complete thematic 180, “Self-Righteous Fuck” is more of a traditional “fuck you” song. I imagine younger people who are full of anger must enjoy this song, but I think I’ve left that part of my life behind me. Interestingly, the song does seem to chill out a bit towards the end. Even if the words don’t do much for me, I enjoy the rhythm in this one.
Without the bonus songs, the album then ends with “Forever and Ever,” which I consider to be one of the most interesting tracks on the album. It’s far more mellow than the rest of the material and almost feels as though it starts, musically, in media res, like the song was already playing but the sound was just turned on. The song has a rather slow build-up, a mellow chorus, and then a fade-out that perfectly matches the fade-in, leaving the album on a nice note.
While I wouldn’t necessarily call this a diverse or experimental album – on the contrary, I find it rather safe – it manages to pull off twelve songs (plus two bonus tracks, depending on your edition) with consistently-shown skill and each song is enjoyable. In the end, perhaps this isn’t a full-score album as some of the songs do feel a bit like filler, but the standard holds pretty consistently and depending on the person, I imagine that many fans have different favorite tracks from me, which gives the album a certain value. I consider this album to be NORTHER‘s true final album and a worthy last shot before everything changed.
Written by Bear Wiseman
- My Antichrist
- Frozen Angel
- To Hell
- Black Gold
- We Rock
- Always & Never
- Tell Me Why
- If You Go
- Self-Righteous Fuck
- Forever and Ever
Petri Lindroos – lead vocals, guitar
Kristian Ranta – guitar, vocals
Heikki Saari – drums
Jukka Koskinen – bass
Tuomas Planman – keyboards
Century Media Records
Elvenking to reissue classic albums “Heathenreel” and “The Winter Wake“ for the first time ever on Vinyl this March on AFM Records