North – The Great Silence – 87%

The Great Silence cover art

(IamHop note: Please welcome longtime friend Erich B. Heider to the Postrockstar family! Erich will be lending his ears and offering his insight for the foreseeable future in an effort to help bring fresh opinions, critiques and writing to the site. Erich will be handling most of the post-metal, sludge and shoegaze content that comes our way.)

North is one of those bands that, upon continued listening, rewards the subject with the realization that although made up of a few completely disparate elements, comes together amazingly into a beautiful monster.

This Tuscan, Arizona band mixes super thick heavy riffs and one of the best death/sludge vocal sounds I’ve heard in years with gossamer post rock/gaze instrumental passages and undercurrents in a way that sounds quite unique in the current overcrowded post rock/post metal oeuvre.

The intro track, “nihil novi sub sole,” which, incidentally translates from the Latin as “There is nothing new under the sun,” lulls one in with stereophonic warmth bursts. This trend continues into the beginning of “Sentience” which starts out with an Explosions in the Sky vibe that is dissipated as soon as the deep, gravel throated vocals kick in. This doesn’t cross the railroad tracks into heavy until the sluggish, almost lazy riff drops, so the vocals against the grain of the music here make for a special sweet and sour treat. I was  pleasantly surprised not only at how well the vocals work with the lighter moments of the music, but with the well written lyrics and melodic hooks (although I hate to call them that, as they aren’t contrived at all).

We entirely submerge ourselves into the dark on Track 3, “Inanimate Fathers.”  Though the tempo doesn’t pick up, the whole vibe is heavier, and if it weren’t for the underlying edges of post rock stylings you’d figure you were listening to the next great “stoner” sludge band.

“Origins” is up next, and at first bringing us back to the gaze. An interesting guitar figure played over swelling peaks of volume resonates warmth…with only the bass suggesting at first that something is very wrong. There’s just enough dissonance mixed in to unsettle you, keeping you off-balance until what turns out to be a perfectly executed semi-duet, complete with female vocals, kicks in. The track breathes menace even as its fractured beauty invites you in.

The next track, “Pulse,” picks the pace up slightly again, but pours on the anger. The vibe is relentless. It’s like the promise of getting a beating when you’re a masochist. With the force receding briefly for an interlude that’s like the relief after an ice cream headache subsides, you get smashed in the ear with tremolo picking and more plodding beast riffage.

Ironically enough, “Patience,” is one of the shortest tracks on this album, clocking in at a little under 6 minutes. It’s comparative brevity doesn’t mean it lacks in the power sludge that permeates this great album. It’s a nice treat to hear the vocals lighten up ever so slightly, before going over the crest into a thousand sand grains shredding through the desert in a windstorm. Very hooky, despite the slow brutality exhibited. Darth Vader would waltz with you to the bridge of this song.

“Paradox” returns to a familiar post rock cadence at the beginning. Of course the slight turn in the road takes us down the dim streets of rain slicked sludge, passing only glimpses of its former self in the puddles. At this point it will occur to anyone even fairly into music how amazingly solid, though understated, the rhythm section of this band is. One realizes how far one has come, but only now do they see that the path they follow is so in synch as to absorb, like the shocks of a dune buggy, all the peaks and twists, without letting one know it were ever happening. This is Lincoln Continental style air glide.

Chaos is permitted only long enough to deliver us to “Ou Est Tout Le Monde.” This is the best ending possible for “The Great Silence.” It reprises all the flavors that have come before it, but in an ultimate form. Epic, mean, and with a sharp octave guitar line, cutting all the way till sweetness is found. Duel riffs lead to sweet shoegaze interludes that lead to the belly of a leviathan, thanks to the once again stunning vocals and their melody. Oh yeah, and since I set a translation precedent, the title translates to “Everyone (in the world) is there.”

In summation, if you the least bit interested at post metal/gaze music, even out of curiosity, this album is a fucking smash. There’s almost literally no going wrong here, which is comparatively astounding, given the hit or miss nature of the post metal genre as a whole. North know how it’s done, and they are innovative and skilled enough to even invent some new ways to do it.

Available for $8 on bandcamp:

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