Monday, September 10, 2012

Reviews: North "The Great Silence"

By: Garviel Loken

Once in a while a record comes along that utterly captivates the senses and draws listeners across the musical event horizon, crushing the current paradigm and ushering in a new standard. This rare feat has been accomplished by North on their stunning new record, "The Great Silence". Elementary and complex at the same time, this album is a true artistic statement that transcends any easy classification.

Fading in like the slowly building fires of a newborn star, the music explodes with incredible clarity and takes the listener across what feels like light years of space and time. Beautifully crafted with subtle textures and dynamic shifts, each song arrives out of the blackness as one might discover a treasure deep down in the fuliginous depths of an ocean or out in the silent void between the constellations. The songwriting prowess of North is utterly supreme, as every song fits perfectly into the architecture of the album, and the resulting sound is more cohesive than anything the band has done previously.

From murky doom to majestic post-metal to artsy ambience, the shear heaviness of "The Great Silence" is breathtaking on many levels. The vibe that permeates the music comes off as an inaudible drone that can only be described as subliminal. Remember the Nietzsche quote "When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also stares into you?". Well, that is exactly what this record is: the abyss manifested into the grooves of a vinyl record. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on the two gargantuan songs Sentience and Est Tout Le Monde?, which feature gut wrenching vocals and monster riffs juxtaposed with sublime melody and calm, atmospheric moments. Disturbing and awe-inspiring, this music is caged lightning. It has power enough to open rifts into new dimensions, wherein listeners can escape the mundane routine of life for awhile.

This record also has some surprises on it, mainly in the song Origins, a spaced out jam that features haunting female vocals that take the music to soaring, dramatic levels. Also breaking up the pattern is a ridiculously infectious and Clutch-like groove that fires off a few minutes into Est Tout Le Monde?. It is only carried for a moment before fading back into the ether of the track. These are just a couple of examples that demonstrate how North keep things interesting and non-linear across the grand gulf of the music. Things unfold at a deliberate pace and minute by minute the album reveals itself, never losing ground, but adding new sonic colors that accentuate and emphasize particular passages.

This creation that North has given life to benefits greatly from the recording and production of Dana Fehr and Tom Beach. The record has gigantic a sound with absolutely astonishing clarity. The instruments sound organic and full, especially the drums, which thunder and sit perfectly amongst the swirl and crunch of the guitars. The vocals shine and the effects used on them here and there are artfully chosen to enhance the music. The overall mixing of the album is wonderful and hands down makes it one of the best recordings to be crafted on the independent level of music.

Another enhancement to the listening experience is the trippy artwork of the album sleeve. Just like the album itself, not everything about the cover reveals itself at first glance. Representations of planets, stars, mountains, eyes, and many other symbols clash for attention. The color pattern seems to be just white, black, and brown, but look again and there are blues, greens, reds, and yellows subtly worked into parts of it. The art really does go with the music and each person who looks at the cover while listening to the songs will come up with their own ideas about what it means. That right there is another hallmark of a great record: it doesn't give all the answers up on a silver platter, but leaves things open to interpretation.

Words can rarely do enough justice to a musical endeavor of this caliber, it has to be absorbed and experienced to provide the best insight. With that being said, the final thought on "The Great Silence" has to be that is certainly a contender for a spot on the best albums of the year list. Artistry on this high plane needs to be supported and appreciated, for it is something not found everyday in music or any other area of life. It is the spark of life found amongst the ruins of a once great empire or the glittering ruby unearthed from the slag heaps of drab earth. Listen to see and hear to believe. 

Final Score: 9/10

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