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Monday, January 23, 2012

REVIEW: Norden Light (SWE) - Shadows From The Wilderness (1987)



Norden Light (no, not northern, as you would expect) was yet another one of those one-hit-wonder bands from Sweden, Gothenburg, which released one great quality album and nothing else. I did not find information about when this band was formed, but it featured Christer Mentzer on vocals, who had previously done vocal duties in Silver Mountain and Michael Von Knorring on drums, who had been in Yngwie J. Malmsteen band, at one point. The band released their only album , Shadows From The Wilderness, at 1987.

Shadows From The Wilderness was a pleasant surprise for me, as I did not really know what to expect! It's not only a good album -- it's a great one! Norden Light is a band, who I feel is bit ahead of it's time sound- and production-wise. The record has almost that flamboyant early nineties soaring heavy metal touch at places, but it still maintains definite eighties core sound, featuring that bit more commercial hard n' heavy -feel along with poppy and soft keyboards, but tight and reasonably heavy riffs, especially for this type of music. I'd say that Shadows From The Wilderness is heavy metal / hard rock combination, with a slight focus that favours metal. Tight guitar playing is the key area that raises this album straight above being just "hard rock". Norden Light are not exactly Van-Halen-heavy band. If they were, I probably would not review them here. Imagine heavier version of Europe or Swedish Universe, with more chugging riffs and bigger emphasis on rhythm guitars, but with slightly mellow keyboard backed sound combined.

Mentzer's (ex-Silver Mountain) powerful vocals shine throughout the album, making it quite memorable effort. He sings in a very melodic soaring way from middle to bit higher pitch, but featuring certain more commercial "street-credibility" in his voice, with powerful bluesy roughness. Very charismatic singer! There's bit of AOR'ish feel at the times in this record, mainly because of the use of mellow poppy keyboards, and few more "radio-friendly" tracks, which, however feature very catchy and irresistible melodies. Have no fear tough. Generally,  keyboard-hater like me can fully enjoy this record, for they are used as backup creating atmosphere rather than stealing the whole show. As for radio-friendliness, they are not more fit to radio than say, Saxon's mid-eighties material such as Rock'n'Roll Gypsy. As melodic as Norden Light is, the sound is also damn tight and very refined. Wall of sound is nicely thick with all the instruments combined. There's nods towards lighter bands like Europe and swedish Universe & Keen Hue, but these guys just generally play it louder most of the time.

One big thing that keeps this record as heavy metal / hard rock combo, rather than being full-blooded heavy metal effort, in addition to hard-rock-way mellow occasional melodies, is the tempo. Tempo sails mainly between bit slower and mid-fast pace, but the band never really shows that much fury, speed, and aggression combined. However, there are tons of great atmosphere and memorable melodies. Mentzer's soaring vocal performance stands out greatly -- and so do backing vocals used frequently -- but that's not to say other members wouldn't shine either. Johan Herlogsson does very good job on guitars, with biting yet melodic riffs and nice shredding here and there. Bass is quite loud and very audible, pounding and creating thickness, complimenting melodic guitars. Drumming is pretty standard, but then again most of the songs don't require drummer to tear himself apart.

Shadows From The Wilderness surprised at least myself very positively by combining soaring Swedish melodic heavy metal with eighties style mellow Europe-like hard rock successfully. It pretty much offers best of the both worlds, and managing not to sound too sissy at the same time. Rather mellow keyboards are well executed and deliberate throughout the whole album, complementing the actual songs. This album is melodic yet it also "rocks" hard at the same time. The thick rocking sound with pounding bass is featured in majority of songs, along with rather big amount of shredding and licks. Dancer kicks most butt, being perhaps the most metallic song of the album, with thick chugging guitar riffs and sparkly keyboards, and totally strong vocal performance by Menzer, though, featuring very mellow but good chorus. It Hurts is yet also another quite ripping number, especially pre-chorus and chorus parts - almost symphonic! Though, once again, gas pedal is kept far away from the floor. Bit faster, heavy and pounding hard rock number Aspen is another very, very, catchy number, and my favorite of the album along with more metallic Dancer. Save Me and Night Life are bit more AOR'ish moments of the album, but both tolerable. Slow and atmospheric Europe-laden rocker, Crossfire, is perfect chill out track with dreamy and hazy keyboards, and features some nice mellow choir-style backing vocals. No Escape is really attempt of the band trying to be more fast and furious, but succeeds of being average at best.

I really enjoy this album as whole - in exception of, perhaps, poppy AOR flavored 'Night Life', which I often tend to skip. It has no single really weak track, and most of them are very good. If you like soaring heavy metal with powerful mid-range vocals and aren't bothered by rather large amount of symphonic sounding, heavy, eighties hard rock with slightly commercial edge thrown in, with hazy and recognizable keyboards, then I warmly suggest checking this obscure record out! The album is very solid through and through, combining heavier straight-forward rhythm riffs with more mellow hard rock melodies, fine solos, and being generally rather uplifting effort. The album is quite emotion packed. It's got great production values, too. Shadows From The Wilderness sounds a bit like more aggressive, thicker, and metallic Europe or Universe.



87

-www.kultmetal.com | reviewer: dungeoncrawler








  • Peter Bodefjord Bass
  • Michael Von Knorring Drums
    • See also: ex-Mentzer, ex-Yngwie J. Malmsteen
  • Johan Herlogsson Guitars
    • See also: ex-Mentzer
  • Peter Jeansson Keyboards
  • Christer Mentzer Vocals
    • See also: ex-Mentzer, ex-Silver Mountain


  • 1. It Hurts 04:48
  • 2. Shadows 03:59
  • 3. Nightlife 04:03
  • 4. Aspen 04:16
  • 5. Dancer 03:17
  • 6. Save Me 04:03
  • 7. Crossfire 04:45
  • 8. No Escape 04:04
  • 9. Legends 03:58
  • 10. Daytime Loser 04:43
  • Playing time 41:56


For Collectors:
(Following prices have raised since ’99 but will give you direction, my bet is you can double them up)
Used album price @ Martin Popoff’s Heavy Metal Record Price Guide (1999):

Label – Sonet/SLP2788
Type – LP/SW/87
Near Mint – $35
Very Good+ - $20

Notes - Reissued '95 on CD




3 comments:

  1. It's a unique document of what was about to happen in the hard/heavy rock genre at the time.
    Had this band been allowed to release and tour their 2.nd release, there's no doubt that they would have been HUGHE.
    Nice review, although I personally think that guitarist Johan Herlogson's role as riffcomposer & -executor is a bit underplayed. He still plays, nowadays with swedish poprockband "Snowstorm".
    I recommend searching for Norden Light's demotracks for their never-released 2nd album, if you enjoy this one, & heard Herlogson's genious riffing on tracks like "In The Dead Of Night", "Stripper", & "Joker's Laugh", & imagine what COULDA been..:-).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I probably didn't look deep enough about the Herlogson's role. Interesting info about the never-released 2nd album, too! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I probably didn't look deep enough about the Herlogson's role. Interesting info about the never-released 2nd album, too! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete