NORTHER, ever since hitting the scene back in 2002, have kept their momentum rolling. Albums and individual singles have graced the charts, opinions of loyal fans and people outside the band circle are usually positive when discussing their music and with the helpful fact of sharing the same rehearsal space together with partners in crime C.O.B. they’ve always been there, the topic of the day yet their ongoing success has never erupted. Touring commitments have never been much of a commitment, mostly local half-drunken gigs, they’ve done one proper tour outside Finland with HYPOCRISY and DIMMU BORGIR. No matter how popular or the opposite, the band has barely rested in four years as they now land their fourth full length album.
I don’t know where the energy sprung from, it sounds like they’re having the time of their lives on this album. When listening to “Solution 7” I know there were some creative sparks blooming but also signs of exhaustion, like they weren’t able to mix these new influences together with the rest of the NORTHER sound. On “Till Death Unites Us” they’ve nailed it! While BODOM desperately tried to separate from touring decadence to find time to write a rushed yet ok “A.Y.D.Y.” (while blaming Punk music for being a direct influence at the time) which only will lead to more touring since people are blinded by the obvious truth, NORTHER simply took life by the balls and cooked up twelve boosting songs (which later got their sound penetration at Studio Fredman in Sweden for the first time) and gave you the middle finger.
What to expect? The album fires plenty of melodic and heavy riffing, fast thrashy rhythms with raspy vocals (much better this time and without the overblown distortion), catchy dual lead melodies and charging virtuosic solos, the musical relationship between Lindroos and Ranta and their sharpened axes has never been better. The keyboards keep on experimenting with small details while also adding that NORTHER patented atmosphere no band can touch, you’ll know it’s them but goddamn they’ve never been so fired up. Always retaining their trademarks, it’s fairly easy to hear some new things that are being worked out. As mentioned before the keyboards have become more versatile and purposeful rather than just providing backdrops for extra layer and atmosphere. Tuomas Planman still brings a lot of celestial atmospheres, especially in the slower tracks, but basically does a lot more and is allowed to play almost throughout an entire song, like on “Wasted Years”, “Alone In The End” and “The End Of Our Lives”, meaning that his solos have been ditched although he does one or two. There’s a whole lot going on in the songs but it’s pretty well structured, I guess one could say the guys went for a more direct approach as every track is an instant hit with the exception of “Everything” (pretty dull) and a juvenile track titled “Fuck You”.
Some of you might remember the clean vocals used on the EP, others will deny them and some couldn’t care less. Rising up to the challenge again, lead guitarist Kristian Ranta lends his pure voice to three songs, just for the choruses, three out of twelve, that’s not much. Due to the extreme and fast nature of the material the clean singing is not forced into every track, which is a smart move, I can’t really picture anymore clean vocals doing much good than what’s already on, it’s not that I resent them but apparently there’s more work to be done before they should be exposed in greater contexts, the melodies are good and Ranta has a good clean voice, I like it, but he’s still a bit shaky in delivery.
They may have some of the worst AND generic song titles on the face of this planet, lyrically they’re not that interesting either (I’ve read most of them and… well, let’s not go there) but after that NORTHER is a prime example of well done Finnish Extreme Metal. There’s a good chance “Till Death Unites Us” will attract new fans and not loose dedicated followers in the process. Old worshippers waiting for something in vein of “Mirror Of Madness” will have to stick to that album for the time being and those still lingering on the thought they might sound like C.O.B., who do you think you’re kidding. (Online March 21, 2006)