REVIEW: The Northern – Solstice [2017]

Artist: The Northern

Album: Solstice

 

Imagine yourself, alone, outdoors, on the coldest night you can recall. You take a deep breath—shivering—as the frigid air pierces your lungs like a million minuscule needles. The moon, once clear and bright, is obfuscated, leaving everything cast in an even deeper shadow than normal. With the exception of your shivering skin and shaking fingertips, the entire world is still.

And then, things start to change.

The last shining sliver of moon is hidden behind—what, you think to yourself. Is that a cloud?

No—not a cloud—the realization shrinks in; the moon, and everything tethering you to this plane of reality has become trapped behind The Northern’s debut full-length record (and Tragic Hero Records debut), Solstice. Aptly named not for its length, but rather for its surreal and extraordinary beauty, Solstice draws breath from the listeners lungs and stops their heart in their chest, keeping them alive with moments of crashing, crushing aggression mingled with moments of incredible atmosphere and soul-soothing ethereality. Simultaneously groovy-yet-grisly; punishing, yet pure and wholesome, Solstice is an album designed to be experienced, by a band whose own experience in making music has lead them to progressive metalcore mastery.

Much akin to label-mates Invent, Animate, The Northern prove to be more than adept at capturing a very distinct atmosphere within the musicianship of their respective releases. Where the band’s previous effort, Imperium is intimidating and aggressive—heated and callous—Solstice chills the listener to the bone, capturing every inch of frost and ice one might imagine from a band hailing from Toronto, Ontario. While they may be as frigid as a stack of ice sheets, they’re anything but fragile like one. Percussionist (and talented vocalist) Adam Linka is aggressive and bouncy, bringing energy and enthusiasm to every smack of his snare drum and thwack of his kick drum. “Solifer,” and the awe-inspiring track “Ataraxia” serve as incredible examples of this—while lead single “Nauticus” sees Linka working at a more moderate and tame candor, playing creative, catchy grooves that serve as a stellar canvas for bassist Gordon Campbell to cruise atop with silky, smooth, snappy bass lines. “Nauticus” highlights this—as does “Polar Drift,” every bit as frosty and elegant as the name might imply. Here, Campbell and Linka work together to create a solid, slick foundation for guitarists Eric Leblanc and Jordan Gallant to slice and dice atop with precise, perfectly dizzying and dynamic displays of devilishly crafty fretwork. Leblanc and Gallant are glorious—acrobatics atop a fretboard—adding just the right amounts of prog and punishment into their framework of furious, bouncy metalcore. “Matches” sees the duo lighting the listener aflame with fleet, firey fretwork—while the passionate and poignant “Umbra” is truly captivating in every musical capacity.

Where Solstice is a marvelous instrumental experience, home to a truly unique and captivating musical dynamic, it is nowhere near complete without describing the utter beauty found within the vocals—and lyrics of The Northern’s trio of ultra-talented vocalists. Frontman Nick Papageorgiou’s voice dominates—oppressing the listener’s senses with raw, gruff and grisly roars that are as relentless as the grooves that back them. “Ataraxia” sees his screams and shouts at their most varied and engaging, while the closing track “Umbra” sees Papageorgiou working with Linka and Gallant both with lyrics that serve as a heart-stopping tell-all about substance abuse and the trials and tribulations therein. In perfect honesty, “Umbra” is the way to end the album—both lyrically and vocally. Linka and Papageorgiou—assisted by Gallant—give it their all, spilling their souls into the churning, energetic river that is the band’s musical backdrop to create a tumultuous flood of emotion that stops at nothing to sweep the listener away, drawing a poetic and poignant close to Solstice’s breathtaking run=time.

Honest, pure, passionate—yet powerful and hellishly heavy at times—Solstice is a wonder of the world just as scintillating as any eclipse and just as jaw-dropping as the Northern lights (get it?). This quintet have taken their previous sound and stripped it down to the rafters, leaving just the grittiest, girthy wrought-iron framework to rebuild with magnificent and meaningful beauty infused with progressively-inclined grooves and catchy, creative vocal patterns that deliver immaculate displays of lyrical prowess. Solstice isn’t a progressive metalcore album that comes once per year, as the name might imply—rather, it comes but once a lifetime.

 

9.5/10

For Fans Of: Invent, Animate, Northlane, Erra, Architects

By: Connor Welsh