After 10 years of waiting, we finally have the new Northward album. After first meeting in 2007 at Progpower 2007, Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen and Pagan’s Mind mastermind Jørn Viggo Lofstad began to formulate what is now Northward, but unfortunately, due to Jansen and Lofstad having unbelievably chaotic schedules, the project was put on hold, until Jansen contacted Lofstad in 2017, bringing Northward back to life and pushing forward with the upcoming self-titled release. Ever since Jansen joined Nightwish, I was genuinely curious as to whether or not this project would go forward, and honestly, that 10 year wait was worth it.
In my time of following Jansen, I’ve come to the conclusion that literally anything she touches musically turns to gold. After beginning with After Forever, to the exceptional ReVamp, onwards to joining the famed Nightwish, she has had one of the most extensive and interesting careers in the music industry. Her most recent project, Northward, provides no exception to that, filled with incredible power ballads and stripped back, old school Rock n’ Roll that will leave fans and listeners alike sweating.
Opening the self-titled album with leading single While Love Died, it’s the perfect introduction to Northward and everything the band stands for. Although it doesn’t necessarily foreshadow or reminisce what the album sounds like, it creates a wonderful atmosphere that’s incredibly hard to find in this day and age’s music industry; it’s straight up, no holds barred Rock n’ Roll. It is noticeable, almost immediately, that this is the first time that Jansen has contributed lyrically and melodically since ReVamp, being able to delve into personal issues and transforming that into music, and she performs incredibly amicably throughout.
Another song that grabbed my attention immediately was the 8th track of the self-titled record, Timebomb. Combining the beauty and rock together can prove to be an incredibly difficult procedure to master, but not for Jansen and Lofstad. Beginning with heavy instrumentals and pinch harmonics going through the roof, I was instantly prepared for the heaviest song on the record, but it swiftly changes into an acoustic section straight away, keeping me intrigued throughout the track, but this track is definitely much more of a power ballad. Joined together with Lofstad and his incredible songwriting abilities, Jansen’s vocal strengths come to fruition throughout this track, going through relaxing, yet powerful vocal performances as well as some of the most beautiful melody writing on this album; especially throughout the chorus. I don’t know why it’s the case for me, but Jansen has this ability to provide emotionally driven melodies throughout all her projects that can bring tears to my eyes (see Nightwish’s The Greatest Show on Earth), and in Timebomb she does exactly that, whilst at the same time having one of the most memorable choruses on this album.
Lofstad hasn’t remained forgotten though, as his instrumental work throughout this album is exceptionally phenomenal. In this case and point, I want to delve into my favourite track on “Northward”, Big Boy. Personally, this song is the one that stands out to me the most in an instrumental aspect, combining only the most mind-blowing grooves along with 8-string guitar riffing; yes, that’s right, 8-string.
The introduction to the track begins on a simple chug pattern performed on a 6 string, and then out of nowhere comes the same chug pattern, but performed on an extended range guitar, and it blew me away. On top of the introduction, Lofstad creates a Rock n’ Roll styled breakdown/bridge that completely threw me off guard. Whilst it’s still definitely a Rock song, it does have a lot of metal influence, building an atmosphere that I haven’t felt since Lindemann’s Skills in Pills (see that bridge/breakdown section over the 8-strings at 2:49). It creates an intricate flavour that adds to the overall musical capacity of the record, and Lofstad uses his 8 string guitar in a way that is almost completely unheard of in the rock industry, truly making this track stand out, not just from the self-titled record, but from Rock n’ Roll as a genre.
The love child project of Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen and Pagan’s Mind mastermind Jørn Viggo Lofstad has finally come to fruition after 10 years, and Northward’s self-titled debut was definitely worth the wait. Filled with slow paced ballads, heavy rock songs and a sneaky guest vocal spot on Drifting Islands by Floor Jansen’s younger sister Irene Jansen, this album hits the mark and is definitely one of the Albums of the Year.
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