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Friday, April 17, 2015

Northumbria - "Helluland"

Artist: Northumbria
Album: Helluland
Year: 2015
Label: Cryo Chamber
Genre: Drone
Website:  cryochamber.bandcamp.com

I don't really know anything about this project other than: they are Canadian, and they recently did a collab with Famine which was neat. The only thing I have to go on going into this review is that they do guitar drone and have a sweet black metal style logo; so with that said let's see how Helluland stacks up.

To be honest, this minimal guitar drone stuff typically isn't my thing. That said, I left this one in the background for a while and found myself getting pulled into it. Right from the opener, "Because I Am Flawed I Forgive You", this album strongly gives off that whole 'isolated ship sailing through thick, grey fog towards nowhere in particular' vibe. It's super emotive and extremely melancholy. It reminds me of The Human Voice sideproject of Northaunt. While many of the tracks carry a similar feel to the opening piece, others such as "Sacred Ground" give off more of an 'icy tundra under a muted, failing sun' feel. This track does a good job of being active as it moves between deep, low rumbling segments and more ascended guitar swells amidst rolling waves of droning isolation. Despite their minimalist composition, "A Door Made of Light I " & ".. II" conjure excellent hypnotic, sacral moods not unlike a stripped down Raison d'etre. "Catch a Falling Knife I" is one of my favorites here as it expertly mixes ghostly, distant melodic notes with equally ethereal drones. Part II is similar, though it has more of a build up and gets quite intense towards the end. A fitting closer for the album.

While Helluland could accurately be described as quite minimal, Northumbria conjures up a variety of excellent and convincing moods and sonic landscapes. Even though I mentioned above that this style of ambient probably wouldn't be my go to, this album won me over and I will definitely be putting it into rotation. This is absolutely something that fans of drone ambient need to hear. If you're looking for something that sounds like an isolated voyage across a murky sea, an endless frozen landscape, a tranquil meditation on nature, and/or being bathed in white light within the ruins of an ancient temple, than this will deliver.

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