The Idea Of North
(Sunmask / War On Music)
Norilsk is the northernmost city in Siberia. It is, in fact, the northernmost city of more than a hundred thousand citizens in the world.
Norilsk is a place bound by permafrost with a history that begins with a prison colony. So, The Idea Of North seems apropos of what is alive here battered by the ice and snow. Solitude and long nights. The place where thoughts sour and turn toward the end. Everything on the album is low. Eight tracks where the leaden bass line lumbers. The grooves belly out. Often times throughout the course of the record, I am stilled by Nicholas Miquelon’s vocals, frozen by a dour sense of gravitas.
At first glance, Norilsk, a Gatineau, Quebec two-piece band has produced one of the better doom/sludge rock albums of the year, but it’s not in their riff heavy thrash influenced numbers, like the eight-minute opener, “Japetus” or the crushing “Throa” that follows it up in the mix. These are brilliant standards that can be called innovative for their use of cavernous interludes and finely crafted negative space in the production, but where I find them most compelling is their slower work, the tumbling middle of the album that presses the doom motif forward. Their songs “Potsdam Glo” and “Nature Morte” have a devastating impact, they are wonderfully written songs featuring a few higher guitar riffs, simmering melody and thoughtful passages with dissident psychedelic atmosphere that carries through. It’s hard to divert your attention. Without calling out such ideas by their name, Norilsk delves into heavy, existential concepts on The Idea Of North and their approach to the craft gives credence to the listener’s need to ponder. You can actually come up with a personal response to what all that oblivion might mean.
The Idea Of North follows up 2014’s Japetus a three-song EP, which gathers that song, “Potsdam Glo” along with a Voivod cover. This is the band’s heavier side, a memorable burst, but what has emerged in the ensuing two years that makes them intriguingly unforgettable is a smart use of all the rest of that darkness.