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Melodic riffs that soar with a balancing heaviness surrounding an (interestingly fitting) airy voice. This is one way (my way) to describe Midnattsol. Midnattsol is a German/Norwegian melodic folk metal band that formed in 2002. They released their first demo the year later, which because Carmen, the lead singer is Liv Kristine's sister, was Alexander Krull (being Liv's husband). Then, after signing with Napalm Records released their debut, which was good, but 'Nordlys' is a better album, showing how much the band has matured in the time between recordings.
Midnattsol released 'Nordlys' (Northern Lights in Norwegian) in 2008, which has a completely different sound from their debut album "Where Twilight Dwells". The style is different in almost every way. Let me say, that knowing that Liv Kristine and Carmen are sisters, you might expect a lighter, higher pitched operatic voice, which is not at all what Carmen delivers. Her vocals on their 2005 debut were higher in range and lighter, but husky, none the less. When recording this album, Carmen uses her lower, heavier register and a semi-operatic style. Let me say this, her thick accent would usually be rediculous, but here it fits.
The guitars stand out more, there is some great lead work here that carry out the melody when Carmen doesn't. But the sound has also gotten a lot heavier as well, the guitars do have leads but the riffs are heavier and more audible than before. The keyboards have been pushed far back and are barely audible, where as before they had a much larger role in the sound.
Something that many musicians lack nowadays is dynamic control. They just release song after song without variation in the dynamic level. That's one of the reasons why I love Midnattsol. The acoustic guitar on this album gives a majestic sound, and when layered with Carmen's low, soft vocal lines, they give off a haunting sound that is like the calm before the storm. And the contrast between the sound when the songs do pick up and blast is amazing. Giving and taking, rising and falling. The diversity feeds the the dramatic aspect of the band's music.
Overall, this album is amazing. The production value is good, everything is clear and clean. The body of the music is both powerul and melodic and his given just the right amount of hauntling majesty with symphonic accents and interludes. There is a acoustic track that acts as a little break from all the faster, more energetic music. Everything adds up to a great losten, and I feel that Midnattsol is very underrated.
High-lights: Skogens Lengsel, Wintertime, New Horizon, River of Virgin Soil
What a fucking turnaround for Midnattsol, the band that rides the accomplishments of Liv Kristine Espeneas. No longer do they need to flaunt the fact that their singer is the sister of Liv; they can stand on their own two feet as a real musical project now. Everyone made significant changes in the band. Vocals, guitars, and general songwriting have turned from appalling to very noteworthy. The biggest shock is that no line-up changes took place since their awful debut album (read my review on the previous record for full analysis).
First, let’s talk about the vocals. What happened? Carmen’s new singing style, although not perfect (to be discussed later), is seriously better than her earlier attempts on the debut. She was once very weak, with a poor sound quality and could not sing. Now, she blows the listener away with bombastic power; singing in an operatic style. She completely abandoned the quiet, timid sounding voice from the debut, and replaced it with powerful operatics. I cannot say enough about this turnaround. However, as mentioned before, it is not perfect. She still carries a very strange vocal quality, coming off as nasal and somewhat pretentious. But I am not going to complain, because after the first album, this sounds like a goddamn siren singing!
Guitars also stepped up after the first album disaster by creating much better riffs and sounding like skilled musicians are actually playing them. Check out the genius riff contained in “En Natt I Nord!” This is what I consider folk metal! Guitars are very strong here, and the acoustic shit from the last album is completely gone.
Drumming is still mediocre, but one can’t expect anything good from a drummer in a band like this.
Songwriting is drastically improved on “Norlys.” Whereas on the debut there were solid songs that could have been, we actually have masterpieces here like “Open Your Eyes,” “Konkylie,” and the afore mentioned “En Natt I Nord.” Midnattsol have finally evolved into a folk metal force with surprises around every corner. The album is definitely worth money.