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NORTHTALE Welcome To Paradise

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Monday, August 26, 2019 @ 7:08 AM

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Welcome To Paradise

Nuclear Blast Records

Ponder if you may, pure rockers, and pray that this never becomes a reality that ever takes shape, but in the event that the true metal legends such as IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST were to finally clock out from the music scene for the last time (and PRIEST were seriously considering retirement following the departure of KK Downing nearly a decade ago), who would be the honorary successors to their throne? My guess would be looking further east and upwards within the metal scene in the Old Continent that’s been active for almost as long as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene has been. From the chorus-friendly and lightning-fast riffs of German power metallers HELLOWEEN, BLIND GUARDIAN and PRIMAL FEAR in the late 80’s to the 90’s to the chanting melodic riffs of Scandinavian metallers HAMMERFALL and STRATOVARIUS throughout the 2000’s and beyond, the power metal scene in Europe has been at its zenith, acting as a counter response to the often-changing and trend-reliant hard rock/metal scene in North America and even the UK. Granted, sometimes the images of sword-wielding Vikings and tales of steadfast conquest can be seen as repetitive pantomime to outside audiences and can result in the scene’s vast array of musical talent being tragically overlooked simply because its own lyrical imagery won’t relate to the average listener.

This could very well be a niche that the members of NORTHTALE have begun to seize upon following the release of their debut album Welcome To Paradise earlier this month. The Swedish-based power metal quintet are but a young band in terms of their musical output as a collective unit; individually, they boast well over 30 years of recording/touring experience individually and the history of their formation is almost as exhaustingly intense as the music they play.

Two of the band’s three main founders – guitarist Bill Hudson and frontman Christian Ericksson – had more or less met by chance a little over a year ago at a summer festival in Sweden where their respected bands were playing at, Hudson as part of Udo Dirkschneider’s touring lineup and Ericksson playing with TWILIGHT FORCE at the time. The meeting became a recording session at first when Hudson invited Ericksson to sing on some demo tracks he’d recorded for a solo album he’d been working on. Both Hudson and Ericksson had also known Patrick Johansson from his work with Yngwie Malmsteen as his touring/session drummer and encouraged him to join the fledgling group soon afterwards. Even further, Hudson, from his other previous touring/recording experience with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, had referred keyboardist Jimmy Pitts, who had known Hudson while both musicians worked with Vitalij Kuprij (ARTENSION, RING OF FIRE) to the lineup. In turn, Eriksson found the perfect bassist for the lineup in the form of Mikael Planefeldt, who had been working with STREAMLINE and was a classmate of his at Hollywood’s Musicians Institute. With their dream lineup confirmed, the quintet booked some time at Black Lounge Studios in Grangärde, Sweden with noted mixmaster legend Jonas Kjellgren during most of the past summer and thus Welcome To Paradise came to fruition.

The fiery opening riffs of Bill Hudson on the title track alone may echo the halcyon chemistry of HELLOWEEN’s Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath – and even Bill Hudson himself will happily take the compliment – but other than absorbing the familiar sound and energy of their peers, NORTHTALE are aiming to be more of a unique-sounding entity elsewhere on the album. Follow-up songs such as “Higher” and “Follow Me” dispense with the aforementioned lyrical frivolities and trappings of fantasy metal and bring the genre into reality – if their own actual-titled song “Shape Your Reality” isn’t enough of a clue by now as to where NORTHTALE are coming from – while maintaining a sense of positive achievement. Think of those endless social media memes one gets bombarded with full of inspiring platitudes of survival and getting by; you’re probably expected to play some Beyoncé or Taylor Swift in the background just to feel as if you’ve fully reigned in the message and become truly enlightened. This would be NORTHTALE’s parallel universe but with more honest lyrics and far better music and encouraging the listener to become a leader and master of their destiny. Christian Ericksson is definitely channeling as much of a realistic platform as he is in encouraging personal success with lyrics like “Will we be the ones to take things higher/Will we ever be the way we want”. Hanging indentations in power metal lyrics tend to be rare in this day and age and these open villages of opportunity won’t pillage themselves with any other soundtrack. Even the breakout number “Shape Your Reality” is not only impressive in Christian’s piercing vocal intro but also in its command to all to create, occasionally fail from time to time, and get back up to continue following the course. Power through it and you’ll see, as the song goes albeit at 200 MPH like a hepped-up smarter version of DRAGONFORCE.

Speaking of social media platitudes, the bouncy grooves of “Everyone’s A Star” (unrelated to TNT’s similar-titled 1987 number) can’t hide the overall mocking of the Instagram/Facebook culture in the lyrics: “Hashtag/Livin’ wild/Showin’ off my newborn child/Five weeks/Then I’m ready for a show/Round trip/Round the world/Places you have never heard”. We can relate all too often to these lyrics because we’ve all done the same on social media. The chorus alone sums up our bizarre yet commonplace culture of acceptance: “Everyone’s a star/Everyone just fakes it and pretend/Everyone is forced to play the game”. Totally different to what Tony Harnell was chanting from a rooftop in downtown London over three decades ago but still full of catchy riff goodness nonetheless.

Elsewhere, for every hard driving HELLOWEEN-esque style number like “Bring Down The Mountain” and “Siren’s Fall”, you get a neat lush-sounding piano ballad such as “Ever When” which encompasses the band’s talents beyond their fast playing style.

In summary, Welcome To Paradise provides the best blueprint debut for NORTHTALE and many other aspiring traditional metal bands to reach further and push harder through both music and lyrics – almost as a precursor towards their own success as they seem poised to stand on top of the rock.

5.0 Out Of 5.0


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