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Released: 2001, Diehard Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
It's refreshing to see an American black metal band. The Europeans have dominated the genre for so many years – and will probably continue for many more years – and it's good to see the Yanks at least giving it a good go. For years now I've been awaiting progress on the "rise" of the American black metal "scene." I'm not sure if NORTHERN LIGHTS really progresses us that far, unfortunately.
Aurora Borealis plays fairly standard black/death metal. The riffs are genetic clones of the old masters – Darkthrone, for instance – and the vocals of Rob Ventor are of the classic cat-screechy type you know and expect from black-influenced bands. It's fast, it's thick, it's brutal (forgive me, message board readers, for not spelling it "br00tal"). However, none of it really transcends. I don't hear anything that really moves me here. I realize this is a tricky criticism because someone out there is bound to dig up one of my own power metal reviews and find where I praise a band for lack of originality (i.e., following in the traditions of Helloween). Perhaps this is a fair rebuttal – but on the other hand, there is a difference between skillful execution of a formula, and a flat-out uninteresting album. NORTHERN LIGHTS comes closer to the latter pole than to the former.
There are some stand-out tracks. I liked the third track, which I think is called "Images in the Night Sky." Track 6, "Hydra," has a thick, catchy opening and rhythm line that I enjoyed. The guitar work and especially drumming (Derek Roddy, who has worked with Nile and Malevolent Creation) is very good. (Check out track 8, "Distant," for a lengthy exposition of drum talent). In fact there's nothing on this album I really minded, but there's nothing that really got me going either. It scores consistently in the fairly neutral category.
One thing about the physical presentation of this album did bother me. On the back of the album, and in the insert booklet, the names of all the songs are written in the distinctive "splattery" death metal lettering, the way almost all death band logos used to be about 10 years ago. This would be fine if somewhere in the album the titles are written out in normal type so you could see what they say – but as it is, you have to squint at the album, turn it sideways, and generally stretch your brain to even decipher them. I have nothing against "splattery" fonts and in fact find band logos written that way to be quite amusing. But song titles? Is this necessary? A cheap shot, maybe – but I had to mention it.
I think serious death and black metal fans will probably enjoy this. Otherwise, it doesn't stand out above the crowd.
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