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While Norther has their ups and downs, they definately cannot be called blatantly worthless, which many accuse them of being due to their very close musical proximity to Children of Bodom. Yes, the genres are exactly the same as well as all instruments and musicians are identical in either bands. However, I have no problem enjoying and appreciating their [Norther] work, especially when I consider the differences between them, which includes; song structures, chords (and scales), and lyrical themes. Yet before we indulge into the topic, of the close affiliation with Children of Bodam Norther has, even further - the description and analysis of "Mirror of Madness" must first be made.
This particular selection of Metal has been recieving seriously misguiding reviews on this site. While some are saying that Norther are talentless Bodom ripoffs (which is not true), others are proclaiming that they are a fine Metal act that deserves all the credit it can recieve (which also is not true). Norther, and Mirror of Madness in and of itself, are niether of these exaggerated titles. Because of this, Norther would most obviously be placed in the exact centre. I find that these musicians have quite a lot to answer for if I were to, in fact, directly compare them that of Children of Bodom. With the genre that Norther follows, they have so many directions in which to take their accumulated sound, which is why "Mirror of Madness" does not deserve the stellar feedback they have been getting from pretty much everybody. They haven't done too much with the genre, they do not seem to expand on it - which leaves many segments of Mirror of Madness Monotonous, and void of affect! Of course, this should not necessarily suggest that the entire album in question has no worth, or anything to give you. It just seems to blend together in a fashion that many of the songs are similar, with no means of differentiating themselves from eachother. And all of these elements that I have discussed are only foucussed on sond writing talent - which they lack (in comparison to Children of Bodom). But none of these have anything to do with musicianship, raw musical talent, or production. Which will be mentioned now...
Norther has astounding musicianship, they are all accomplished players who are excellent at what they do. Kristian Ranta and Petri Lindroos (Guitars), are amoung the best Guitarists one can hope to find and both can easily hold they're own against 'Wildchild' any day. And because of these two brilliant Guitarists, who both share a friendly competition with eachother, we are blessed to hear these two trading off solos - the element that is gleefully welcomed into the Metal world is doubled with these guys going head to head!
The Percussionist of Norther possesses and very accurate ear, his fills and patterns never fumble, and he never loses track of were he is. This, however, is majorily caused by the monotony that Norther's song writing brings. The tempo and time signatures don't seem to change that often in one particular song (especially Mirror of Madness, Betrayed, and Of Darkness and Light). Inversely, when they do decide to change or slightly alter the time signatures, the song in which this occurs is far more enjoyable and far more exciting (this includes the rest of the songs on the album that were not classified as 'monotonus').
The Bassist, who is actually given a glimmer of spotlight (as apposed to most Metal bands who just prefer to keep them silent) has, from what is heard, a great deal of talent. Unfortunately there is not enough of him to give an honest citicism of, so all that can really be said is that he is not terrible!
Their Keyboardist is basically the exact expectation of any Keyboardist in any Power Metal band. If one is familiar with the Keyboarding done for Stratovarius, Kotipelto, Simphony X, Magic Kingdom, or even Tad Morose (and Children of Bodom) chances are Norther's Keyboardist wll not surprise, or dissappoint you.
The production that was done for Mirror of Madness was excellently maintained and professional (I thought I'd just throw that last one in there because of the well done, yet primative production of their previous album "Dreams of Endless War"). Therefore, I must repeat that Norther is niether amazing or junk. They have massive potential, but they don't seem to develope what they play or write. In fact, the only real improvment they have made from their last album was the production, so they do need to work on differentiating their songs a lot more! And for the record, their latest release "Death Unlimited" has been taken into consideration and the same criticism can still be made.
Also, one more point. Do not lump them in as Children of Bodom ripoffs. Because Norther's genre is relatively new (and because of this, little has been done with it) there isn't too much that can happen until more bands begin to indulge themselves in "Power/Speed Metal with Harsh Vocals" or "Melodic Death" or whatever the hell you call it. The only bands out there besides Norther and COB are Skyfire (and I'd give you more examples but I honestly don't know any, so you are well aware of the limited amount of bands in this genre)!
To summarize, Norther has beautiful potential, which they do use occasionally (mainly with "Everything is an End", "Cry" and "Dead"). Their Guitarists are solo-shredding experts. They have a decent but monochromatic Drummer, and all around they are a good band that could have been orgasmic but lack seriously in the song writing department. I apologize for being repetitive! Listen to them and make your own conclusion - it's not like downloading is difficult.