NORTHER has been moving towards a more commercial sound for some time now. Like their bigger counterparts in CHILDREN OF BODOM, the band has moved towards this sound. For NORTHER it’s been at least an album and two EPs since people had started complaining about this move in musical direction. And “N” (the so cleverly named album) is just going to piss off more people.
“N” is a definite move towards a commercial sound even compared to their last album. Simpler music structures, more focus on hooks, and even more clean vocals are going to be the controversy of the year for NORTHER fans. Quite frankly, this album is hit or miss. There are some killer sections and songs and then there are some songs that you may want to skip over quickly. And NORTHER has packed them all onto “N”.
To start off, I think that NORTHER generally succeeds with the direction that they are taking with their music. “N” is a damn catchy album and on first listen, there are going to be songs that instantly grab you. Unfortunately, most of the album doesn’t have a lasting effect on the listener, especially the first half. The album is fun and catchy but the depth of the album waivers at times and makes the album very hit or miss.
The band does have some great moments on the album. After a pretty decent and Thrashy opener, we get to hear a re-recorded version of “Frozen Angel”. I will still defend this song as a great song despite the nay sayers. This song is a killer track and is probably the best song on the first half of the album. Unfortunately, after this song the album dive bombs into the doldrums. Until the song “We Rock”, there isn’t much going on here. We get a lot of mediocre and B-side quality from a usually very solid band. There are some good riffs here and there but overall this section just feels very blah. Simplistic keys and solos don’t help either considering the talented players of the respected instruments.
The last half of the album is worth the money to buy the album. “We Rock” kicks off a little more layered and technical side of the band that still maintains the catchiness and fun that the album was striving for. Hell, even the STATIC-X influenced “Always & Never” had me pretty impressed. Now, I’m not saying that the second half of “N” sounds like their first album. It just felt as though the band finally got into the groove of what they were striving for and started to get at it.
I think it’s only fair to also note that guitarist Kristian 'Kride' Ranta does a lot more of his clean vocals on “N”. We all knew it was coming, but this time Ranta has improved them quite a bit. The song “If You Go” even sports him as the main vocals with Lindroos complimenting in his harsh tone. And it’s a great song on the album! But many fans of the older style (pre-clean vocals) are going to shit themselves on this. Sorry but it seems like they are here to stay.
Definitely not NORTHER’s best album by any means, but “N” has it moments. I have to admit that I enjoyed it but it’s not going to a thorough repeat in my rotational listenings. A handful of killer tracks though really help for those NORTHER play list and mixes one is going to make.
Songs to check out: “Frozen Angel”, “My Antichrist”, “Always & Never”.
(Online January 13, 2009)