Three years after their debut “Where Twilight Dwells”, German/Norwegian combo MIDNATTSOL is back for a second strike, titled “Nordlys” (which means “Northern Light”) and as I had thoroughly enjoyed their first effort, I was very much looking forward to the new album, as I had found their mix of Gothic, Folk and Viking Metal very engaging and also quite original. Now they say that you should not fix what is not broke and that seems to be the motto that this quintet also used as a mantra while creating the new disc, as they basically stick to their guns, sitting highly comfortably between the two chairs or rather making it at least a nice loveseat.
All of the above becomes clear from the get-go of opener “Open Your Eyes”, which is marked by the atypical style of vocals that Carmen Elise Espenæs is utilizing, not the usual Gothic Metal voice, but with this kind of ethereal quality to it, while the music despite its atmospheric nature remains more varied and at times heavier than what you normally would expect. You don’t believe me? Then listen to “Skogens Lengsel”, which’s rhythm (and use of double-bass) will definitely convince you that MIDNATTSOL are not just your every day band out there, quite the contrary. Now I would not stress the Folk Metal part too much, as most people probably would expect Folk instruments, instead it lies more in the atmosphere and some of the melodies, conjuring up this kind of Nordic feeling, which also creates interesting dynamics within the songs that mark a definitive step forward compared to the debut.
The kind-of title track “Northern Light” sums up everything that MIDNATTSOL stand for, in terms of atmosphere, dynamics, heaviness, melodies and those also pretty much originality, because to be quite honest, this mix together with Carmen’s vocal style make it hard to come up with a different band that sounds like them and that is a big compliment already. And it becomes clearer and clearer as the album progresses that the band has progressed immensely as well, weaving the different elements into gripping and engrossing compositions that take the best of both worlds and combine them into incredibly dense and soaring compositions such as “Race Of Time”, which is atmospheric here and fast, double-bass driven there, with brilliant melodies, I love it!
Had the debut already been very interesting and good, it is amazing to see how big of a step the band managed to take forward in the three years since the release of “Where Twilight Dwells”, which at the one hand makes me hope for a similar step on the third CD, but on the other hand also makes me fear that they might not be able to repeat such a feat, but that is something the future will show, for now I am more than happy to fully recommend “Nordlys” to anyone with an affinity towards Gothic/Folk/Viking Metal, as MIDNATTSOL are rapidly claiming the ladder of this style!
(Online September 23, 2008)