North – Siberia (self-released, 01 May 2006 / re-released by Prosthetic Records, 02 June 2015)
North – Metanoia (self-released, 11 March 2014 / re-released by Prosthetic Records, 02 June 2015)
North – Through Raven’s Eyes (Prosthetic Records, 14 August 2015)
North – Light the Way (Prosthetic Records, 18 March 2016)
Well. Today is going to be all about North, a band who (naturally) come from the extreme southern part of Arizona, and who, as we mentioned a while back, are touring across the country with Conan. As you can see from the title of this post and that series of album covers just above, there’s going to be a ton of material to go over, so that’s all the introduction we have time for …
Founded in 2005 as an instrumental quartet, North released Siberia the following year. Sometimes slow and thoughtful, sometimes grand and triumphal, and more often than not kind of hopeful, the eight tracks of this record are typically the sort of post-metal that would appeal to fans of Russian Circles or Pelican. In some of the more serene moments, though, the mood brings to mind an instrumental version of Bask (especially in the opening of “Hope in the Form of Light,” and throughout “Depleted & Ill-Willed” and “Gripped & Numb”). As you may expect from music of this type, it all gets heavier and more distorty on a few occasions — but usually reverts quickly back to shimmery and shiny post-metal. The longest song here, eight-minute closing track “Body Abandoned” really escalates things into stratospheric levels of intensity by the end.
In the years that followed, a vocalist had come and gone, and the band went through a couple of second guitarists, in the course of releasing a handful of LPs and EPs. Fast-forwarding to 2014, the group unexpectedly found themselves whittled down to a trio, consisting of three of the original members (bassist Evan Leek, drummer Zack Hansen, guitarist Matthew Mutterperl), although by this time Mr. Leek had added vocals to his job description. With this newly revamped line-up and a strong sense of resolve, North went on to start writing and recording once more.
The result was the Metanoia 12″ EP. Based on their commentary, they are intending the theological sense of this title, as a dramatic change in one’s life resulting from penitence or a spiritual conversion. But intriguingly enough, the term also has a psychological application, referring to major changes following a psychotic breakdown or similar tumultuous event. Either way, by now the guys had adopted a strong sense of sludginess and doom and gloom — while not quite abandoning the sound they had started out with.
To match the EP title, its four tracks also employ some nifty five-buck words for their names. “Atrabilious” (which opens with a hint of that shimmery post-metal sound, but soon gets overtaken by super dark and heavy sludge, accompanied by appropriately despairing yelling) is in fact the the Latin equivalent of the Greek root that gives us “melancholy”; “Nefelibata” (here sounding more like progressive post-metal with hints of sludge influence, although the vocals here are more of a deep bellowing roar) is a Portuguese word for “daydreamer” that derives from an ancient Greek term, literally meaning “cloud walker”; “Hiraeth” (featuring some plaintive, introspective-sounding clean singing that evolves into more despaired hollering, matching the progression of the music) turns out to be a Welsh word for a combination of homesickness, grief, wistfulness, and longing; and finally, “Master” (introducing a few rather sparse moments, evoking feelings of isolation and loss) is of course the Norwegian plural form of “mast” — equivalent to “masts” in English.
The band then signed on with Prosthetic Records, who in 2015 re-released the long-out-of-print Siberia and the more recent Metanoia together on one CD and separately on vinyl. Later that same year saw the emergence of a two-track “digital 7-inch” entitled Through Raven’s Eyes, intended to serve as a precursor to the group’s forthcoming next album. “Old Blood” promised that the new material would be darker, heavier, grimier, and sludgier. The vocals here sound much deeper and gruffer, and after a lengthy instrumental passage with numerous crushing layers of sound, the rest of the song comes back even slower and heavier. In contrast, “Silverfeather” is a return to the band’s instrumental origins — pitting some reverby digital piano against a huge tangled mass of angry noise.
That new album, released by Prosthetic in early 2016, was Light the Way, which became one of my absolute favorite releases of the year. An instrumental opener “Moonswan” starts things off with some majestic overdriven post-metal chords, leading straight into the more post-metally, echoey and brooding title track — although loads of distortion and heavy drums soon kick in, coupled with faraway yelling, landing squarely in Kowloon Walled City‘s neighborhood. Most of the other songs generally align with the sound that had been introduced in “Old Blood,” aside from the brief interlude “Rhef Anad” that actually resembles “Silverfeather” in a way — but with reverby guitar joining the digital piano, and accompanied by the occasional tolling of an orchestral chime — and “Relativity,” a couple minutes of stripped down, reverby guitar strumming to close out the record. Quickly, a few notable highlights: around the middle of “Primal Bloom” and near the end of “On a Beaten Crooked Path” we find some interestingly intricate guitar work; and sporadically among these epic arrangements, the guitar sometimes slips into a higher register and leaves the bass and drums plenty of room to maneuver underneath.
Go get yourself some North: Siberia here, Metanoia here, Through Raven’s Eyes here, and finally, Light the Way here. While it appears the physical editions are no longer available through Prosthetic, you can find most of them listed on the band’s Bandcamp page.
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