Ok, so clean vocals are pretty much common in Metal now, I might be wrong but it seems that more and more Metal people are starting to really appreciate the “talent” in a voice with clear tonality more than the monotonous grunting. Finland’s NORTHER are approaching a crossroad in the fast rolling career and guess what, clean vocals are being explored; they are starting to go the same route paved by bands like SOILWORK and IN FLAMES, shortly after to be walked by NIGHT IN GALES and WITHERING SURFACE and the rest of the horde.
This EP reveals changes. First of all, the surprising artwork breaks their recognisable blue sleeved discography, which is nice, otherwise they might have some of the most boring art covers to be found in the European scene. Second and this is the important element of the matter since this is only an EP, the songs are experimental, it’s obvious that this release revolves around spontaneous ideas, figuring out where to go next.
“Day Zero” kicks us off with the traditional NORTHER sound; atmospheric keyboards, screaming vocals, Thrash Metal guitar frenzies, hooky lead melodies and the trademark versatile solos, add the clean vocals of lead guitarist Kristian Ranta and increased keyboard playing and POW!, there’s the next step in the band’s evolution. “YDKS”, short for “You Don’t Know Shit”, had me lost for awhile, sounds a little different, definitely pinching mainstream lightness because of the catchiness and the clean sung chorus lines you’re likely to be whistling along to, not their best but a good song anyway.
To make things up for the fans you have a song called “Hellhole”, very heavy and musically fast paced, the most obvious song on the EP. “Thorn” is my favourite, a neatly written song releasing tons of various ideas, technical and balanced with another short appearance of Ranta’s clean singing and a Derek Sherinian patented solo at the end. To end with, there’s a remix of the song “Chasm” off “Death Unlimited” but this time recorded with clean vocals instead of Petri’s screaming. I have mixed feelings about the track, I don’t know what to think of it really, it’s quite ok but it feels weird and wrong although it let’s the clean vocals out of the closet and take the lead role to see how they fit in, in this case they sound a bit off.
An interesting step for the band, those C.O.B. comparisons reviewers tend to flirt with ought to be gone by now as NORTHER are showing clear signs of their capabilities as independent song writers, I enjoy Ranta’s singing, there’s talent in him but his voice might need some adjustments though. It’ll be exciting to see how the band will sound on the next album, which is scheduled to be recorded at Studio Fredman in summer, til then fans should check in with “Solution 7” for the latest in NORTHER development. (Online June 7, 2005)