Northern Lights

Written by: TL on 09/12/2012 12:14:09

We've already gone over the emergence and dip of Swedish post-hardcore/screamo outfit Intohimo - a band named with the Finnish word for 'passion' - when I reviewed their surprising comeback EP Winter Sun from May. That EP tested the waters ahead of the band's third album proper "Northern Lights", which sees them head down the path revealed by likely influences Bring Me The Horizon, of mixing the most aggressive tones from metalcore and post-hardcore with the cinematic scope and atmosphere from post-rock - In fact, from the rumours swirling around the upcoming BMTH release, you could possibly view "Northern Lights" as sort of a scouting mission into these stylistic borderlands, while you wait for BMTH to stage a proper full scale exploration.

While the mentioning of this new twist to the band's sound was enough to get me curious about the album, what ends up characterising it is only partly the originality of the spin on the genre. What's really impressive here is how thorough Intohimo have been in the writing department, because at no point of "Northern Lights" will you find lacklustre parts, clumsy transitions or odd stretches that don't contribute to the whole. Opener proper "Northern Lights Pt. 1" prephrases all that is to come nicely, with a tremolo intro giving way to a sparkling lead riff, which in turn breaks down into the bassy toil of a heavy metalcore verse setting up a catchy clean sung chorus.

Of course, there's no great revolution in the flesh and bone of a heavy verse and a clean chorus, a recipe which is still the foundation for most of "Northern Lights". What does deserve appreciation is how Intohimo set the bar high in almost every department they work with. The heavy infusions for instance, are partly the nasty, muddy onslaught of down-tuned riffage you know from BMTH and partly the eerie positive vibe Misery Signals brought to the world on their influential 2006 album "Mirrors", and the rhythmic patterns of bass, rhythm guitar and drums are kept abrupt and intricate to the point where you have consistent mental images of avalanches, glaciers breaking and great northern beasts locked fang and claw, trading punches in bloody struggle on some pine-clad mountain side.

The imagination is only really stirred like that however, because of the interplay from the picturesque post-rock-ish parts that occur like fleeting lulls in the musical storm with more ringing lead riffage, and because of the carefully delivered refrains, which give each song a strong signature. The clean singing might not be of the impossible quality we often hear in this genre, but it is at least varied, and frontman Johan sounds soulful whether he is crooning full power, singing with melancholy or shouting or screaming at the top of his lungs.

All these qualities combine early and often on "Northern Lights", which is marked with several highlights: "Another Low" has a curious melody to its chorus that quickly moves into the memory, as does "Far Side And Further"'s call/response punchline "the journey ends, a new beginning!" and standout track "Crossroad"'s soaring refrain. "The Rotation Of The Earth Vs. Me" ends in a classic break-and-build-up with tremolo riffage coming back in and bringing the album to its pinnacle, and "Underwater Interlude" also deserves a mention for its menacing muffled screams, as does "Northern Lights Pt. 2" which ends the album's regular play time as a simple, traditional, climax-track haunted by dramatic Swedish lyrics; “Kom närmre. Håll mig nära. Jag är inte redo att förlora dig.” (“Come closer. Hold me close. I’m not ready to lose you.”).

The release is extended by the inclusion of the four tracks from the "Winter Sun EP", whose merits I've already elaborated on in its review and which fit seamlessly as an extension of the album. In fact, all things considered it only strengthens "Northern Lights" in its appearance to me as one of the most coherent, consistent and characteristic albums that have been released in these stylistic waters for some time. My one and only gripe with the release is in the levels of the production, the best thing that can be said about them being that they reveal more and more of the album's texture the louder you play it (read: you need to turn this up to get the full payout). It's an annoying little problem on a record that otherwise feels like the band has tried to dot every i and cross every t. Still though, this coming from a band (and local scene) that I throught was down and almost out is an excellent surprise. It makes me want to go moshing and screaming in a blizzard. Check it.


Download: Crossroads, The Rotation Of The Earth Vs. Me, Northern Lights Pt. 1, Another Low,
For The Fans Of: Bring Me The Horizon, Adept, Underoath, Her Bright Skies, Akissforjersey

Release Date 12.10.2012
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