North - The Great Silence
Record Label: Cavity Records
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Returning from a break of sorts following the release of their 2008 disc What You Were, slow-metallers North are returning after a bit of retooling and reworking of their atmospheric, yet gritty sound. Considering both the prior LP and their instrumental EPs, the band seemingly continues to toy with their channeling in a post-hiatus state, they seem to tighten the bolts on a ship that perhaps needed some new parts instead. So for The Great Silence, North dropped a little bit of the pretty and upped the heavy, making for something that will against challenge old fans while perhaps finding a way to pick up a few new ones along the way.
This record is as surprising at times as it is both entrancing and engaging. While other bands are channeling their atmospheric, spinning melodies with the hope of entrancement, North combines that mindset with a sludgy kick to bring an almost dull blade to cut the delicacy heard elsewhere. The dynamic is quite jarring as elements to the band emerge and are taken back, whether it be the almost southern-tinged vocal rasp, loopy guitars or rather sinister distortion employed. I probably should have mentioned we’re only discussing the 13-minute bulldozer on wings “Sentience”. But regardless, the movements are not proprietary to this track, as surreal melodies and female vocals compliment the otherworldly “Origins”, while closer “Ou Est Tout Le Monde?” grinds out razor-sharp guitar lines that churn and slice through ripples of accented ride bells and tom fills – only to buzz out the track and album through a hefty amount of crunch and pulse-like drumming.
North commands their sound with a noted confidence of experience though, coming at us from all angles with infectious melodies (“Inanimate Fathers”, “Ou Est”) and thundering vocals that almost transcend the wispy nature of sparse moments in “Sentience” and “Pulse” that feel slightly more post-rock than commanding spacey sludge. Yet even the longer track times fly by here, with two of the songs pushing past ten-minute territory with little to stop them. It’s interesting enough though that the band hasn’t done anything since a rather heralded LP in 2008 – it would seem as if these tracks have brewed long enough to the point of where there’s not much a detail overlooked in the constant descent into the metallic-flourished unknown.
For what it’s worth though, the band’s second LP with vocals is a much more focused effort in that department – arguably a bit more approachable tonally and less brash in execution. Listen to WYW’s “I Am Become Death” and then listen to TGS’s “Pulse”. You could pick any two. But in at least presentation the band seems much more pleasing to the ears with a gruffy mouthpiece than one that seemingly just saws through your ears – it arguably fits the vibe of this record better regardless of previous work. Lyrically, the band leaves a bit to be desired even in such a sound, as the slightly repetitive lyrical drones make for tough to connect material at times.
Yet in only eight tracks, North do more than just interest – they more often than not impress with a controlling assault of heavy over heavenly and catchy if not also crushing. It’s a feat as well, as their sound seems compelling enough to spark the mind of metal fans and post-rock fans all in one clean swoop. Don’t be misled though, North has returned with a hour long ride that tightens up their mind-swirling influences without going cheap on the slime – making this a logical, yet still rather enjoyable followup to What You Were.