REVIEW: NORTHWARD – “Northward”
All musicians have some measure of material buried behind cobwebs, locked away within the dark recesses of their personal vault. Or whatever that equates to when it comes to hard drives. And, sometimes, that material is simply too good not to retrieve, revive and release. The self-titled debut from Northward is a prime example. Originally written a decade ago in 2008, Floor Jansen (Nightwish) and Jorn Viggo Lofstad (Pagan’s Mind) found themselves in 2018 with an opportunity to return and bring their vision to fruition. A vision that, despite being conceived ten years ago, holds up just as well, if not better today.
Opening track and leading single “While Love Died” sets the tone for what is to follow, and what follows is a great rock record. Caffeine induced drumming, single chord strums with intermittent harmonics, and a vocal delivery from Jansen tailored to the realm of rock; by the time this initial ushering in hits the chorus you’re already sold. In its own respect, the same impact is achieved with the direct follow up, “Get What You Give.” With a peaking moment found in its enchanting acoustic interlude, the beauty is in its recurring, high octane main riff coupled with edgy verses that compliment one another to strong effect. Should we find an album standout, this rescued debut could seriously warrant replay value to the point of creating irate neighbours. So hopefully your neighbours aren’t on your list of favourite people, as there certainly is one.
“Storm In A Glass” showcases the magic that can be achieved with good songwriting and the often overlooked, essential right chemistry. Part 80’s hair whip, part irresistibly good contemporary rock number, “Storm In A Glass” could both fit in as well as govern the genres most beloved in any era of its existence.
Individually, Lofstad paints a sonic backdrop that caters to each song based on its own requirements. Notable examples exist throughout the record, perhaps most of all on “Drifting Islands”. With Irene Jansen lending her own vocal talents to the guest slot, Lofstad tends to the music with a seasoned precision, creating a powerful, borderline, heavy duet between the Jansen sisters. Vocally, Floor Jansen shows her own impressive diversity also. She notes her occasional delving into a rock vocal styling when Nightwish calls for it, but here she takes it to another level entirely. On bigger numbers such as “Let Me Out” to the stripped back, acoustic performance in the brief, yet heartbreaking “Bridle Passion”, Jansen’s variances and diversity, as well as her overall delivery, are some of her most impressive to date.
With minimal retouching to the songs, and the drums not being retouched whatsoever, the only complaint that could be made is that we didn’t get it sooner. But maybe its late arrival is something of a blessing in disguise. It may not reinvent or relaunch the now much recycled genre, but this debut displays an alignment, a songwriting partnership, and a duo who are doing their own thing with it and having a lot of fun in the process. Northward have been sitting on what is a rock record too good not to slot into the collection. With its release just over the horizon, one can only hope that this isn’t the last we hear of this dapper duo, even if it does take another decade.