October 15, 2018 Northward – Northward (Album Review)
Floor Jansen and Jørn Viggo Lofstad. These two masterminds have recently combined forces to finish a Hard Rock trek together, a journey that they began a decade ago and have entitled Northward. The duo’s debut album, the eponymous Northward, arrives on Friday, October 19, 2018, thanks to Nuclear Blast Records.
It was in 2007 that Nightwish Vocalist Floor Jansen and Pagan’s Mind Guitarist Jørn Viggo Lofstad joined forces for a spontaneous on-stage jam session that would plant the seeds of Northward. By 2008, the pair had authored an entire album’s worth of material together, though their tight schedules with their main projects would unfortunately keep them from properly presenting Northward to the world.
As fate would have it, Jansen’s “day job,” the band Nightwish, would opt to take a break in 2017, opening her schedule and allowing her time to contact her old friend. By March, she and Lofstad were coming together in Sweden to pour over their Northward material once again, revisiting their initial collection of straightforward Rock with no compromises.
With the help of Producer Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Kobra and the Lotus) – who mixed Northward – Jansen and Lofstad set out to record a collection of music that would be free of the outside influences of their main projects, something uniquely different, stripped down, and yet still fully kick ass. For help bringing their visions to life, they enlisted the help of Bassist Morty Black (TNT) as well as Drummers Jango Nilsen and Stian Kristoffersen (Pagan’s Mind). For a special treat, Ronny Tegner of Pagan’s Mind steps in to provide some piano work, and Jansen’s sister, Irene, duets on the soaring “Drifting Islands.”
The 11-song Northward opens to the Arena Rock guitars of “While Love Died,” with Jansen doing her very best Anne Wilson; there is a definite nostalgic, 1970s Classic Rock vibe to this straight-up rocker. This continues into the sweeping, soaring journey over the canyons that is the driving sonics of “Get What You Give,” which already feels familiar – like an old favorite. Bass-licious licks open up the hip-sway of gentle rocker “Storm In A Glass” before the duo crank it back up for the lackadaisical, glittering guitars of “Drifting Islands.” Here, interspersed with Jansen’s powerhouse vocals and the equally impressive vocal talents of her sister, Irene, there are punches of crunchy grit and magically twinkling moments, as well.
Acoustic guitar provides the lead into and anchors the softly fluttering “Paragon,” which ultimately builds into a dramatic vocal performance from Jansen, a reminder that this talented lady has pure Metal running through her veins. Cranking it back up, “Let Me Out” digs deep with fat bass-lines that flow into moments of groove-heavy Rock, a sing-along infectiousness, and one truly frenetic-fingered, scaling guitar solo from Lofstad.
The pair channel their inner-Led Zeppelin for the sultry stomp of “Big Boy,” which dips into some seriously funky moments, while “Timebomb” dials it down to blend in piano before Jansen explodes into vocal theatrics worthy of a proper Rock-n-Roll diva. Next, they go sweetly soaring acoustics for “Bridle Passion,” because every rocker has a soft side, before building delicious tension into the fiery guitars of “I Need,” a sassy rocker. Ultimately, they sign off with “Northward,” much more than a namesake, a delicate invitation to rise upward. Here, Jansen gets a last chance to show off her talented vocals as Lofstad holds solid on the acoustics – though he sneaks some delicious electric grooves in there too.
The key to Northward’s songs is to never grow complacent: they change up their formula constantly, most often within the context of one song. So what feels like a groove rocker might become an infectious, danceable offering and then, without a second’s notice, turn toward heavy bass-lines and serious crunch. With so much respect shown for the classics, and many moments that harken back to the ‘70s and ‘80s, it’s easy to see that Lofstad has a history with and a love for Classic Rock – and Jansen is clearly a very quick study!
In fact, Northward is an impressive debut, a collection of straight-up rockers that prove that Jansen is one talented Metal maven who can tackle any genre with her powerhouse vocal cords. And Lofstad? Well, he is a virtuoso! For these reasons, CrypticRock give Northward’s eponymous debut 5 of 5 stars.