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Norther's magnum opus - 99%

BlackMetal213, April 22nd, 2017

This is THE Norther album. Although their discography overall is actually fairly solid in my opinion (yes, even "Circle Regenerated" and "N" to a lesser extent), this is the album. This was the first Norther album I ever listened to and even all of these years later, it still sticks with me as one of my favorite Finnish heavy metal albums. It's followed closely by "Death Unlimited" but marginally, this is the better of the two. The atmosphere on this record is flawless and the only real detractor, which I just recently reviewed, is the single "Unleash Hell". And that's only a minor detractor because it in itself is not a horrible song!

The guitars on this album are the highlight, easily. Petri and Kristian are both extremely talented guitarists, with Petri eventually replacing Jari in Ensiferum. Both of these dude's riffs and solos shine like a gleaming beacon of melody over a frozen wasteland covered in snow. The album artwork is very much justified by the album's overall sound. It's very cold but extremely well produced and that is shown in the guitarwork. The riffs are very oriented towards power metal in the speed and epic sound they possess, which of course will lead comparisons to Children of Bodom. And these comparisons are somewhat justified, but then again, pretty much any Finnish melodic death metal act that incorporates power metal will end up compared to CoB. For me, this album is marginally better than even CoB's best album which I believe to be "Something Wild". It's close, though. But I digress, enough of the cliché comparison to CoB. Norther is definitely a separate and unique entity at this point in their career.

So, the guitars, again. I really apologize for going off topic there. These guitars work wonders and provide a common element of melody and aggression all throughout the album. The first two songs are my favorite and start the album off at a very strong point. "Blackhearted" contains some of the most gorgeous melodies we will hear here (hear here....HERE HERE!!!!) and the piano segments breaking up the beautiful chaos only incorporate more beauty. "Betrayed" is something of a sister to this track and works in similar ways, following a similar composition but sounds a bit more aggressive. There is this one riff in this song that just sticks out like crazy every time. I will say the lyrics aren't that strong on this song, or really on the album as a whole, but aside from "Unleash Hell", they don't always distract me too much.

In terms of vocals, this was before Kristian started using clean vocals within the band. The vocals here sound somewhat less mature than Lindroos would eventually sound but they get the job done. I think his vocals are, and always have been, far better than (last Children of Bodom comparison, I swear!!!) Alexi Laiho's. His screams are quite hateful and extremely energetic. Also, he doesn't sound like he smokes 30 packs of cigarettes a day, and for me, that's a great thing!

The keyboards are mixed extremely well with the other instruments. They aren't overbearing but they aren't drowned in the mixture either. The album artwork appears to be a broken mirror surrounded by snow and ice, and a few barren trees in the distance. These keyboards really help personify that atmosphere of the album cover and bring it alive. Finnish metal is known for having this sort of melancholic, freezing cold atmosphere and Norther do not disappoint on this.

So, what else can I say about "Mirror of Madness"? I really don't think I can state anything that hasn't been stated. I'd say this is definitely Norther's best album and for me, this will always be the case. It's not like we will see another Norther album in the future.