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An obvious emulation, but a good one as well. - 78%

hells_unicorn, January 1st, 2009

With all of the success that Ensiferum has enjoyed even after Jari’s exodus, you’d think a band that all but completely follows in their footsteps would be instantly picked up by a major label, but more than a year to the day that this rather impressive demo was put together Northland is still an underground sensation racking up a respectable play count on Myspace. Granted, the band claims a healthy variety of influences, but barring the occasional Primordial sort of Celtic tinge to some of their melodies and a Fairyland/Rhapsody Of Fire approach to keyboard atmosphere, they basically fall heavily into the Ensiferum brand of folk metal.

In terms of execution, this is a very well put together demo for something accomplished without the aid of either a label or a professional studio. The flow of the songs is well maintained, everything is basically audible and the drum production lacks that dead, trash can character that many independent demos often exhibit. The guitar sound is a little too heavy on the gain, resulting in the muted sections occasionally sounding a little mushy, and the drums are just a tad too low in the mix and robs this of some of the power that it feels it should have. The vocals and the keyboard atmospheres, however, are basically perfect in their realization and help to paint over the flaws in the mix, though as a result the listen is pretty light in comparison to what was heard on Ensiferum’s “Iron”, though surprisingly of higher quality than all 3 of said band’s demos.

There are some heavy parallels to “Victory Songs” on here, almost to the point of sounding akin to the practice of writing variations on the themes of other composers that was commonplace a couple hundred years ago. This is particularly noticeable right at the beginning of “Where The Heroes Die” where they all but outright quotes the first 1/3 of the principle theme of Ensiferum’s latest release. “The Awakening” takes a somewhat different route and sounds like a simplified version of Wintersun’s “Battle Against Time”, lacking any flamboyant blast beats and technical guitar/keyboard showmanship, but instead going for an atmospheric blending of the song with the character of Ensiferum’s music. Regardless, all of the songs on here are quite enjoyable, despite that you get the sneaking position you’ve heard them before.

Apart from maybe a slightly harsher emulation of the black metal shrieks out of principle vocalist Pau Murillo and a clean voice that is more reminiscent of Quorthon than Jari Mäenpää, the distinguishing traits between Northland and Ensiferum are few in number. This is a good release for the style it is in, and when compared to the large number of folk acts coming out of the Scandinavian area it is a cut above most, but the band would do well to bring out some of the other influences within the power, melodic death and black metal genres that the band touts, as only a few really come through. The potential is definitely here, and with a little more individual character this act could rival and perhaps even surpass the current manifestation of Ensiferum.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 1, 2009.