NORTHER – Till Death Unites Us


Release date: February 2, 2006

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Children of Bodom and Eternal Tears of Sorrow definitely paved way for something big when they in the late 1990s decided to fuse melodic and very technical guitar work with hyper-speed drums, Jens Johansson-style keyboards, and brutal vocals. The trademark “Finnish” sound was “happier” sounding as well as focusing more on speed than the older “Swedish” one (as originated by bands like At the Gates, Dark Tranquility, In Flames, and early Sentenced) The sub-genre quickly adapted a huge, mostly European and Japanese, following – the music being “brutal” enough to find followers among fans of the darker Metal genres while the catchy melodies at the same time appealed to fans of more traditional Heavy and Power Metal.

The Finns in Norther originates as far back as 1996, but nothing serious happened before the year 2000 when some lucky member changes finally made the band og somewhere. After several years of struggling they finally landed a deal with Finland’s foremost Metal label – Spinefarm Records, which resulted in their debut album Dreams of Endless War being released in 2002. Till Death Unites Us is the band’s fourth full length album.

On this, their most recent effort, the band remains very true to the trademark “Finnish sound,” and this works as a double-edged sword for the band. On the one hand, this guarantees a bucketful of melodic, punchy riffs, memorable hooks, and great musicianship. However, the genre’s rather limited musical options often make bands sound more or less exactly alike, and that sound is very close to Bodom’s Hatebreeder album. In general, the band sounds way better when they move a bit away from the most rip-off riffs. The opener, “Throwing My Life Away,” is an example of this –- by applying more Black Metal-influenced chord progressions and very fresh riffing, the band has come up with an excellent track. “Norther,” on the other hand, is extremely Bodom-influenced -– collectively in terms of the twin-guitar arrangement, the melody lines, and drum beats -– and completely lacks the flair of “Throwing …”

Other good tracks are “Evil Ladies,” the catchy “Scream,” and the raw and in-your-face “Fuck You,” which, besides the opener, stands forth as the album’s top track. It’s only 2 minutes long, but has more power than half of the rest of the album alone.

The band uses clean vocals (sung by guitarist Kristian Ranta) on several tracks -– a good idea to freshen up the sound a bit you’d have to say -– but unfortunately both the vocal performance and the vocal lines are not up to par. A pity indeed … the slower “Wasted Year” would, for example, be a great track if the chorus had been sung properly.

Still, overall the musicianship is solid. Guitarists Ranta and Pedri Lindroos definitely have the chops, and the Laiho/Malmsteen-influenced solos are very well played, but they may have to work a bit more on the phrasing side of things -– the quicker parts sound far better than the slower, by comparison. The rhythm section of Jukka Koskinen (bass) and Henki Saari (drums) does a good job, although not groundbreaking, but it’s the band’s use of keyboards that deserves the most praise. Tuomas Planman’s playing works very well … in additional to delivering great solos, like the one in “The End Of Our Lives,” he does a great job of giving the album a dark and very suiting feeling.

There’s still some work to be done, then, especially in the songwriting department, but diehard fans of the genre will definitely enjoy this album, and the boys definitely deserve another shot.


  • Torgeir P. Krokfjord

    Torgeir was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. After hearing Malmsteen's "Vengeance" on a guitar mag CD at the age of 12 or 13, he began doing hopeless interpretations of Yngwie licks and it just took off from there. After shorter stints at other zines he was snatched to Metal Express Radio in 2003. Alongside Yngwie, Savatage, WASP, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Emperor, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, Motörhead, Manowar, and Queensrÿche are a quick list of musical faves. Torgeir is also guitarist in the Heavy/Prog/Thrash outfit Sarpedon.

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