Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Northless: Clandestine Abuse (2011)

Heavy Week, Part 4


Northless is a sludge metal band from Milwaukee whose first full-length Clandestine Abuse caught my attention when it premiered on Invisible Oranges. For those of you who think Remission was Mastodon's finest hour, take notice.

It's been a while since I've name-dropped Mastodon this extensively, but after listening to this album you'd be hard-pressed to pinpoint what, exactly, distinguishes Northless from Mastodon's early material. That is, before the latter got proggy and started using clean vocals. Both are mostly mid-paced, very heavy sludge metal, with a fair amount of dissonance in the guitar leads and hardcore shouted vocals. Northless doesn't speed up quite as often (though they do on the last couple tracks), they tend not to let up on the heaviness, and there are no solos to speak of. Those are really the only differences, and they're not much.

Well, that, and the songwriting isn't as strong. The riffs aren't as good, the leads aren't as interesting, and they don't mix things up in the pacing or atmosphere departments as much. But the music is still strong--by aping the style of such an amazing album, they're inviting a lot of negative comments, but the music is still interesting. And other than "Not Made for Existence" dragging on a bit in the middle, there are no missteps. Plus, the clean vocals that do appear on closer "The Storm" are a nice touch, without the nasally quality of the legendary Georgians.

The Verdict: Northless isn't particularly original, but they're dedicated to a sound that was mostly abandoned by the best band doing it. They're filling a void a lot of people want filled. On the other hand, there are a lot of other bands trying to fill that void (Bison B.C. and Howl are two other obvious contenders). I'm not sure we really need this. I like it anyway, though, so I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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