“Nordlys” by Midnattsol

Artist: Midnattsol
Title: “Nordlys”
Label: Napalm Records
Release Date: 4/1/2008
Genre: Nordic Folk Metal
Rating: 4/5

When I first heard that Midnattsol was a band not only fronted by the sister of Leaves’ Eyes own Liv Kristine but that it was also another female fronted Symphonic Gothic adventure, I admit that I was just a little bit hesitant about what I would actually experience with their album. Fortunately when it comes down to the bands sophomore release “Nordlys”, which is Norwegian for Northern Lights, the group comes off as both interesting and exciting from the moment the recording begins. I was happy this was far from a “Leaves Eyes II” as that group is a special one to me, and I would hate to find this be an exact clone. Midnattsol strikes hard from the beginning with “Open Your Eyes” and this is a crunching number, with a slow yet heavy vibe. There is a touch of Liv Kristine in her sister’s voice but I felt this was to be expected with the siblings and the slight similarity in vocal styles would definitely find some cross-pollination in terms of fans for the group. “Skogens Lengsel” surprised me in its overall tempo and drive since it was a little more like an Iron Maiden track with Nightwish style drumming. Carmen shows during this one that she might have been a good choice for the Finnish superstars had she not been involved in something special already. The albums title track follows as the third offering and it would be an understatement to say that this song is anything less than a potential single for whatever means will allow it to reach the proper audience. One of the most intriguing parts of the track for me was in its slightly Middle Eastern feel during some of the guitar riffing. Another favorite of mine fell to “Wintertimes” which I enjoyed for its careful mixture of heaviness and softer passages. Carmen also brings her voice to a soft whisper for these aspects before she again delivers her soaring melodies. While we were only up to the albums fifth track it was very clear that Midnattsol was afforded the luxury of being far from “yet another” female fronted band and instead came off as something capable of standing strong on their own.

Fans of the faster stuff will probably lean to the more traditional sound found in tracks like “Race Of Time” as it features the elements of appeal we’ve discussed but also a lot more of the classic Traditional Metal vibe insofar as double bass drumming and intricate guitar work. I also felt the axe slingers were offering up some Folkish feel during this one. The listener who longs for passionate ballads will find their needs fulfilled during the beautiful “New Horizon” but the track is fleeting and under three minutes in length. The standard edition album closes with what I felt was another of the best musical offerings on the release – “En Natt I Nord” and for a finale it does a great job of bringing all the themes that are presented across the album together one more time. Sadly I had never heard the bands debut album “Where Twilight Dwells” so I am unable to offer comparison between the two and yet still feel that this was impressive enough to keep my attention for the entire release. Carmen does not sing exactly like her sister which is refreshing even though there are the referenced light similarities every once in awhile. Fans that purchase the limited edition of the album will be treated to a bonus track “Octobre”, and this features clean vocals from guitarist Droste who also works as the lead singer for the Funeral Doom Metal band Ahab. I admit that I was surprised at the overall lack of male vocals on the album especially with such a member in the bands roster. Perhaps they felt that including this aspect would have made the album too much like a Leaves Eyes release and that Droste was their own Alexander Krull. I wasn’t able to offer thoughts on the bonus track but knowing how the singer does his Doom stuff from hearing Ahab in the past made me feel that perhaps even a couple of clean vocal lines in this material would have been a nice idea.

The band has a large lineup and stands strong as six members that feature Carmen Elise Espaneas (vocals), Daniel Droste (guitars), Christian Hector (guitars), Chis Merzinsky (drums), Birgit Ollbrunner (bass) and Daniel Fischer (keyboards). The technical ability of the group is definitely sound across the board as each member seems to work well with other without any one overshadowing the talents of the other. The production on this one is rock solid as well and was done at both Mastersound Studios and Klangschmiede E Studios. Midnattsol is Norwegian for “Midnight Sun” and with “Nordyls” they prove that they shine brighter than many others who have come before them. This is a recommendation for fans of Leaves Eyes, Tristania, Sirenia and Nightwish most specifically but if you are one of those who is currently enjoying the more interesting side of Gothic Metal then I suggest you turn your attention over to Midnattsol as well.

Track Listing:
1. Open Your Eyes
2. Skogens Lengsel
3. Northern Light
4. Konkylie
5. Wintertimes
6. Race Of Time
7. New Horizon
8. River Of Virgin Soil
9. En Natt I Nord

Official Website: www.midnattsol.com

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