North - _Na Polach Bitew_
(Pagan Records, 2006)
by: James Montague (5 out of 10)
With their Polish origins, pagan themes and cover art whose enthusiastic medieval LARP recalls Graveland's _Creed of Iron_, it seemed a simple matter to pigeonhole North along with the vast hordes of melodic, pagan NSBM bands that have cropped up in the wake of Rob Darken's exploits. However, with its thrashy opening chords and furious, energetic drumming, it quickly became apparent that _Na Polach Bitew_ wasn't going to strum out all the expected clich├ęs. I thus listened with keen interest to the ensuing assault.

Things started well with "Woyna Trwa" ("The War Rages On"), a caustic, raw black metal piece with subtle undercurrents of acoustic melody carrying just the slightest hint of the Polish NSBM style. With good musicianship, solid guitar leads and vicious vocals, the stage was set for an exceptional black metal experience. Unfortunately, things didn't really kick on from there, the rest of the album faling to develop a clear theme or up the intensity. Much of the blame can be attributed to the production -- although clear and loud, _Na Polach Bitew_ seems to have received the treatment usually reserved for mainstream rock, with mid-range pitches and vocals brought to the fore. Thus the music lacks either the razorsharp high end characteristic to raw black metal or the low end drone that lends oppressive and relentless force to war metal and can even turn monotony into a strength. Ultimately, North's latest effort lacks personality, and without the benefit of cover art and song titles I'd be hard pressed to guess at their lyrical themes -- I'd go with Satanism just to maximise my chances of success.

North is best known for their _From the Dark Past_ album released in 1998, and that's probably the place to start. The band definitely has ability and their newest release is by no means bad, but is likely to breeze by unnoticed.


(article published 4/2/2007)

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