Tucson, Arizona’s North is one of the first bands I was lucky enough to review for Postrockstar. 2012’s The Great Silence came out during a time of great change and transformation for me, and it was a partial soundtrack to that. It’s an anecdotal, yet coincidently interesting fact that the title of their new album is Metanoia, which means, according to Wikipedia, “The process of experiencing a psychotic ‘break down’ and subsequent psychological re-building or healing.” The album sounds that way too. From a leaky quiet beginning thru a primordial, almost violent, powerful movement to a manifesto-like declarative, in under 30 minutes.
Saying that North brings the heavy is a pitiful understatement. This album is a pummeling slab of sludge, yet its hooks are barbed and snag the listener before the even know they’ve been caught.
The attack begins with “Atrabilious.” It tinkers up quietly before deluging us with a throbbing, plodding riff towards a chorus that is like stinging-hard rain. The Latin roots of the title mean “black bile.” It is cantankerous and lovely, and it dies like a candle burning out.
A moment of silence later we are gently lofted into “Nefelibata.” Much like this cloudlike beginning, the word itself, of Portuguese origin, literally means, “cloud walker.” Basically, one who lives by their own convention. Besides summing up North’s uniqueness quite well, it fits the track sonically. While not necessarily less heavy then the previous song, “Nefelibata” has a more buoyant quality. It is less dense and breathes. There’s dreaminess to this one.
Much more pointed and angular, the next track “Hiraeth,” comes on like a beating heart. Then it bleeds. It exists as one long breakdown of longing, catharsis, and emotion. In this, North shows a bit of reverie for bands such as Godflesh and Fudgetunnel. Hiraeth is an old Welsh word, with no direct translation to English. The gist of it is a feeling of loss and homesickness. Nostalgia. If one weren’t to look that up, it would still be conveyed perfectly by Evan Leek’s plaintive throat ripped vocals. Again I curse the lack of available lyrics.
“Hiraeth” bookends nicely into “Master.” This final track brings one out the other side of the metanoia…into a sense of power and becoming. Guitar lines streak flash like lightening. This is wizard atop the mountain music. This is arrows, on fire, flying across the sky. This is a great album.
It’s probably pretty evident that I’m a fan of North at this point. While not as progressive as some post-metal, these guys play enormously satisfying, well-informed, original heavy music. It never insists upon itself. One is just compelled into the shadowy world that Metanoia seems to exist in.
The production is clear, yet unencumbered. I can imagine this all being played live with little loss of studio trickery. Guitar tone is monstrous and thick, and the Bass follows it much of the time to add even more heft. Drums are played heavily. The impact upon the instrument is audible and satisfying. Cymbals dance across the mix, never cutting too much. In fact, the sound engineering is damn near perfect for this type of music.
The song structures are deceptively simple at first listen. The dynamics in the guitar add a depth and complexity that would be sorely missed if it weren’t done so subtly. The instrumentation on a whole is utilitarian in that North’s power trio get done with a knife what other bands try (and fail) to do with an M16.
In Metanoia, North has created something that is more then the sum of its parts, and they have done so intelligently and with volition. This is undoubtedly one of my top ten albums of this year already. To say I feel like it’s a “must listen” would be redundant.