You are trudging through the cold snow, blinding light beating onto your brow from the white crystalline expanse stretching out around you forever. There are small icicles hanging from your clothes. Every breath taken brings the agony of a cold so strong, so omnipresent, that it shreds your lungs. You sigh, a small cloud forming from your exhalation, and continue to walk. Whenever you take a step, you hear the muffled crunch of snow underfoot. All the while, the first album from Canadian doom metal outfit Norilsk, The Idea of North, is playing in the background.
This hour-long ode to the Arctic is a monolithic jamfest, through and through. From beginning to end, The Idea of North is a fantastic example of what modern doom metal should sound like. Thick, slow as molasses, and greatly atmospheric, Norilsk’s debut has exactly what it takes to land this band a spot in any doom metal fan’s list of bands to look out for.
Opening with ‘Japetus’, The Idea of North immediately lays itself out in front of the listener, like a menacing red carpet. Full of a smoky and evil vibe, the track moves at an appropriately glacial speed, setting the pace and tone for the rest of the album: heavy, assaulting power chords tug at your ears, while the bass and drums plod away in the background, providing context and a great backdrop for the sonic landscape. The bass really does deserve a special mention on this album- smooth and constantly on-point, it urges the rest of the band onwards through the riffs, adding a sense of powerful rhythm and groove to each song.
The real star of the show here is the writing- every song is different, yet derived from the same basic formula and style. Each of the nine tracks on the album feel unique and separate from the others, yet together they still form a greatly cohesive whole. Every riff feels thought-out and punchy, and they thread into one another well. There are no stop-and-go moments; everything flows nicely and with grace. The Idea of North is musically eloquent, demonstrating many different approaches to doom metal, and Norilsk clearly has a handle on how to make each approach work.
Unfortunately, Norilsk also falls into one of doom’s big pitfalls in various places- the total loss of momentum. Doom, as a genre, is heavily built on slow, even crawling, progressions, and thusly, it’s far too easy for a song to lose any sense of forward progress. Hell, even the kings of doom, bands like Sleep or Electric Wizard, experience this problem. The slow and colossal sound is the genre’s biggest strength and its biggest weakness. Norilsk suffers from this, not in abundance, but as much as any other doom metal band.
This is actually the biggest blow to the record- although it’s not a problem fans of the genre will care about as much, it cements The Idea of North as an album that will put off any newcomers to the doom genre. Anyone looking to start getting into doom should absolutely avoid this album until they’ve grown to like the genre more; this is a record made by doom fans for doom fans, and subsequently, if the listener isn’t already appreciative of the intricacies of the genre, this record has the potential to be slow, tiring to listen to, and just straight-up boring.
Like the frozen and frigid environment the album emulates, The Idea of North is harsh, cold, and punishing to those not yet used to the extreme climate (sonic or physical, in this sense). Anyone looking to get into doom should mark this album as ‘for later’- the dense and uninviting nature gives the music more chance to be written off by those not as acquainted with the genre than potential to be enjoyed. However, for listeners already versed in the way of doom metal’s drawn-out, pummeling sound, this album is a journey through grandiose and immense soundscapes, created by a band that shows a fantastic grasp of the genre. It’s very hard to believe this is a debut album- the The Idea of North is powerful, chock-full of great riffs, and unbelievably well-written.
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Norilsk- The Idea of North gets…