Thursday, September 1, 2011

Northern Breeze - Sailing to the North (2006)

Perhaps I'm just a jaded purist, but I'm always taken aback when I experience a 'Viking' or Norse themed metal band that isn't actually hailing from the geographic clime (or region) of its affectations. That said, Northern Breeze are at least from Greece, a component of the Eurasian continent where such cultures and their raiders are likely to have sacked and spread at an early Age, or at least woven their wars and legacy into the fabric of history. Sailing to the North was one of the few albums released through the rare Candarian Demon imprint, and the band has been silent since, but they offer a fair counterpart to their obvious Norwegian influences, Immortal and Enslaved of the later 90s.

Sailing to the North is a dynamically versed record which stops at nothing to capture the frigid winds and battles of its idealized subject matter. Taut, thrashing rhythms are threaded through brighter, melodic streams of chords. Not a band highly devoted to the black metal aesthetic of vile dissonance, they nonetheless craft some degree of barbarism and passion for the fight in tracks like the opener "Legacy of Hatred" or their namesake "Northern Breeze". But this is not their sole trick, as they conjure sturdy components of melody in the finale of "Dream Valley" or the fjord-treading "Father of All Times". Acoustic passages are wrought through a number of pieces to add that folksy flair so common to the Viking/Norse fanatics, but they are far from sissies, with tracks like "The World at War" and "Night Breed" ripping out forth from the school of Frost and Battles in the North.

In general, the tunes are well put together, they just don't stand out against the expansive range of similar artists from numerous continents spouting the same, derivative jargon. The lyrics feel like a mash of Thyrfing, Immortal and Einherjar, and the riffs, if tightly wed to the solid, machine-like rhythm section, never evoke those moments of climax and passion that make you want to split someone's head open with your battle axe. But that is not to say that the band do not provide a few layers of depth in their composition, and certainly Sailing to the North has the components of a competent debut, in both musical proficiency and cleanliness. None of the tracks are needlessly bloated, usually ranging in the 4-6 minute range, and they all incorporate a mild degree of variation to keep hold of the listener's ear. While it cuts the water of its passing with effective enough oars, this longship sadly leaves precious little conquest in its wake.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]
(the ashes for your frustration)

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