I first became aware of Spain's Northland at the ill-fated Metalfest in Dudley, UK in late 2009 (no relation to the open air festivals in Austria and Germany!). They amazed the small number of fans who had arrived early at the festival with their upbeat folk metal, complete with violin, and gained many new fans. Their demo Freeing Sadness was met with much acclaim by people who heard it, showing the talent of this band who play in a style strongly reminiscent of Finnish veterans Ensiferum. It was with great anticipation that we awaited their debut album and courtesy of Black Bards Entertainment here it is at last!
The journey to create this album seems to have been very arduous! The drums were recorded by Dani Mateu in three days, the bass player, Yolanda Gago, had to wait until she had a break from university and the violin, courtesy of Pau Vazques, had to be recorded twice at two different studios! Despite this the album has a very pleasant sound with all of the instruments being audible and a very happy, light-hearted atmosphere pervading the release.
Singer Pau Murillo has a voice which has just the right amount of grit for this music. It is a well-rounded growl, very much like a cross between the two Ensiferum singers Petri Lindroos and Jari Mäenpää. Occasionally he also sings cleanly and whilst this does add variety to the vocal delivery I don't think he has a great clean voice. More variation is offered in the song Lord Of The Flies when Northland have a go at shamanistic chanting! On Distant Land Yolanda also lays down some vocals, giving Northland another facet to their interesting sound. Again, I don't feel that her voice is technically the best but she manages to convey the emotion of the song in her voice, which is probably the most important aspect.
So, onto the songs. There are eleven tracks on this release, including a couple of short instrumental interludes. Composer Pau Murillo has been writing these songs since 2007 so you would expect them to be quite well polished and, on the whole, I would say they are. Each of the songs on offer is, at worst, enjoyable folk metal. Three of the tracks were included on the demo (or the 2008 re-release) but are, as you would expect, a cut above the original recordings. The best songs on this album - Revenge, Where The Heroes Die and Withering Rose - all display how good and diverse this band is.
My one real complaint with Northland is that they occasionally - I hate this description - sound a bit generic. They are very obviously inspired by the Finnish folk metal scene and this has led to them sounding very similar to already established acts. This is a complex issue as Northlanddo what they do very well and I don't want them to change but I'm afraid they may get lost amidst the vast number of other bands who are playing similar music.
However, taken for what it is – a debut album from a talented group of young musicians – this is a quality album that I have no doubt will be getting many more spins from me. Highly recommended for fans of Scandinavian folk metal...let's face it, if this band was Finnish they'd probably be massive already!