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North of Nowhere
Released: 2012, Self-released
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Hailing from the UK's Hull, trio XIII have covered some fairly promising ground with nihilistically-named inaugural release, North of Nowhere. Following a departure from the original four-piece line-up, the gents have struck out on their own to continue their thundering mission.
There are some great things about this record. The riffs are pretty tasty, as in tracks Fahrenheit and Fuckin' Scum, and the group's energy never once relents. Their attempts to channel a thrashy sensibility are, for the most part, successful, with earthy, chromatic chugs intertwining with some impressive arpeggio flurries from guitarist and frontman Dan Murray. Unfortunately however, while their technical ability is good, it's not fantastic, and sometimes, the lead and rhythm halves fall into a bit of a 'phasing' synchronisation with each other – they have to go around another couple of bars to fall back into time.
I expected slightly more from Murray's improvisation sections and from the group's general sense of innovation, too, which frequently tumbles into the ravenous chops of repetition. Still, while the content isn't particularly memorable, nor is it ground-breaking, it's certainly not bad, and there are plenty of promising peaks of potential within.
The main niggling problem for me, however, is the vocals. While the shouted, almost hardcore-esque style might be considered by some to fit with the energy of the instruments, it just makes an otherwise optimistic offering sound juvenile and amateurish. It's not that Murray is a bad singer; in fact, he's tuneful, and has a strong vibrato and range. But at times, such as during the mellow Forever and Retribution, his nasal tones would most definitely be better suited to a 90s Brit-pop ensemble than to a three-piece trying to make its mark in the lofty halls of modern metal.
Technical issues aside however, North of Nowhere is hardly a lifeless shell. It's chock-full of passion and balls; its creators just need a little more time to refine both their musicality and song craftsmanship. If they stick to this task with the fervour which they manage to convey here, you can be sure that we will witness grand things from XIII.
Review by Rhiannon Marley
2. Breaking Point
4. The Longest Day
6. Down 'n' Out
7. The Beaten Path
8. Unlucky For Some (Save us)
9. North of Nowhere
11. Fuckin' Scum
12. When God is gone...The Devil takes hold
Dan Murray – Vocals/Guitars/Harmonica
James Oxtoby – Bass/Backing Vocals/Piano
Alex O'Dwyer – Drums