Norilsk – The Idea of North

8/10

To all things, there is a season. As the sweltering oppression of summer gives way to the Pumpkin-Spiced fuckery of autumn, Canadians know that little time remains before their existence is plunged into near perpetual darkness and genital-damaging cold. While the yearly ritual of unpacking the winter clothes while gripped with crippling existential dread is certainly tiresome, at least this year the fine fellows who comprise Ottawa-Gatineau sludgy doom outfit Norilsk have provided us with a fitting soundtrack with their new full length record The Idea of North.

Opening track “Japetus” sets a wonderfully foreboding tone with its monolithic riffs and blackened, icy vocals, which combine to evoke the sense of being abandoned in the middle of some frozen wasteland while an all encompassing storm rages around you. While The Idea of North would be a perfectly serviceable moody-doom record if it continued along in similar oppressive fashion, Norilsk’s Nicolas Miquelon and Nick Richer elevate their work by choosing to explore a broader range of sonic and emotional textures. The crushing heaviness of “Japetus” and “Throa” gives way to the contemplative and forlorn “Potsdam Do,” whose haunting vocals and sparse instrumentation brings to mind My Dying Bride or even the dour musings of Stormcrowfleet-era Skepticism (minus all the organ). The whispered vocals and chilling sound effects of “Nature Morte” see the band delve even further into the icy void before roaring back to life with “La Liberte Aux Ailes,” a track whose driving beat and swaggering riff seem purposefully built for leading a group of Vikings on a particularly kick-ass march across the tundra.

While I could get nitpicky about some of the guitar tones used on The Idea of North, Miquelon and Richer demonstrate a profound attention to detail and nuance when it comes to composition and overall sound choice. All of the added atmospheric synth and layered vocal sounds blend in seamlessly, and add appropriate flavor without ever feeling cheesy or overwrought. The tiny details, such as the single triangle chime near the beginning of “La Grande Noircoeur,” are subtle but essential parts of the record’s whole.

As a popular book and television series is fond of reminding you, Winter is Coming.  Until the eradication of human life on earth and/or the inevitable heat-death of the Universe, no amount of complaining is going to keep you from winter’s chilly embrace. With that cheery thought in mind, I highly suggest giving The Idea of North a spin while you sit by the window awaiting that first, beautiful snowflake.

Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson

About Jesse Gainer 108 Articles
Jesse is a staple in the Montreal music scene, most well-known for being the drummer of the local band, Talk-Sick. Not only is he one of the city’s hottest drummers, he studied a double major at McGill University in Economics and Political Science. According to him, the bands that you need to be listening to right now are: NAILS, Dead in the Dirt, Baptists, Oi Polloi, Tragedy, Nomads, Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers, BIIPIIGWAN, Eagle Twin, Animals as Leaders, Lumbar, and any other band signed to either Southern Lord Records or A389 Recordings. The first concert that Jesse ever attended was Vanilla Ice, accompanied by his parents.

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