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I feel no pain when I kill. - 40%

Diamhea, February 14th, 2014

By the release of their first demo, Norther had already gained experience under a number of different monikers and managed to assemble what was to become their most consistent lineup. Planman's instrumental closer from Dreams of Endless War is alternatively titled "Towards the Storm" and instead opens the proceedings here. I've always found it's foreboding allure better suited as an end cap, since it delivers little as an atmospheric piece if the listener is not aware of the accompanying metal tracks. It sounds exactly the same as the album version, in fact I believe they used the exact same recording in both instances.

Bigger differences begin to surface once "Warlord" fires up. Besides going by "Endless War" on the full-length, it is played at a slightly slower tempo here on the demo and doesn't have the same neck-jerking appeal due to production imbalances. Ranta's leads cut through well enough and manage to get the job done, but the rhythm sounds airy and hollow. It sounds like the band recorded the rhythm tracks using a 15-watt practice amp. When the normally agitated breakdown surfaces at around 4:15, you can't help but chuckle at how inert the entire thing sounds. Of course it certainly doesn't help that Planman's keys aren't as prominent either. A lot of his stabbing orchestra hits are missing, and there are some piano arpeggios during the verses that I don't recall appearing on Dreams of Endless War.

I'm not necessarily blaming the production woes on all of Warlord's shortcomings. If anything, listening to this material without the slick leads and crunchy modern zest to the rhythm proves that these compositions just aren't that good to begin with. "Victorious One" is one of the better tracks from Dreams of Endless War, and as such it fares marginally better here. This is mainly because the original wasn't as dependent on the keyboard theatrics to deliver it's raunchy excess. Hallio plays this one at a slightly faster tempo than the album version, which apparently begins to test the skill of some of band members. The performance starts to lose itself near the end of the song, as some of the leads get a bit sloppy alongside Hallio's shaky patterns. This one manages to get by on the seat of it's pants alone.

The cover of Skid Row's "Youth Gone Wild" is a good choice, but the band rerecorded it later on with much more enthusiasm and effort behind it. Other than the inclusion of the early demo mixes of the soon-to-be album tracks, this cover would have been the only cut on Warlord that could still give it value today. Regardless, even this falls well short of it's angsty goal. The whole thing screams of a rushjob. The traditionally gang-shouted chorus is instead screamed in it's entirety by Petri alone. Words can't describe how out of place and banal this sounds. Petri actually loses his place near the end of the song during the final chorus, and the directionless anger in his voice mixes with the sloppy performances about as well as oil and water.

The whole ordeal is just an embarrassment, and it remains a miracle that these guys got signed with Warlord representing them. There is a common misconception floating around that Alexi Laiho from Children of Bodom got the band signed. It was Alexander that helped the band out in their early days, not Alexi. I know for a fact that he helped Norther score a rehearsal spot, but whether or not he had a hand in getting the band an album deal remains conjecture. Even so, judging by the mediocre compositions here, most signs would point to yes.