The person behind Northmaan gives little away about his identity but tells us he comes from the most northern part of the UK. At a guess, that would be the Orkney Islands, now part of Scotland but overrun by Norwegian Vikings in the ninth century. The word (and name) ‘Norman’ means Norsemen, as in the Latinised Vikings who conquered England in 1066. We’ll assume Northmaan is a descendant of Vikings, but don’t be expecting a black metal solo project (yawn). This is a bleak industrial metal canvass that encapsulates the gloom of a northern European mist and the warring aggression of the many Celtic and Germanic races that claimed modern Great Britain as their own over the centuries.
But we must go from Alba to the former Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia in England’s West Midlands to understand the music of Northmaan. Birmingham greats, Godflesh, are the prime influence on the claustrophobic sound of this record. The pulverising beats, unforgiving distortion and bellowing voice of a man fighting to emancipate from the smog of an industrial hellhole run through the songs like a toxic pollutant intent on destroying your health. Northmaan takes this brooding landscape on opener, ‘Self Destruct’, and adds the bruising rage of Strapping Young Lad to create six minutes of unadulterated aggression. It will remind you of the martial force of Australian industrialists, No Names. The self-explanatory ‘Rage Trigger’ is even more brutal with a low-end range that will blow your speakers like a Napalm Death album. Now Northmann introduces the chunky groove of Prong to the mix with a muscular onomatopoeia to his vocals. Those bass guitar rumbles and crushing drumbeats will attack the muscles underneath your jaw like a bad pint of ale served from the bottom of the barrel. You spit it out, but the taste remains. Northmaan creates art that leaves an impression on your senses and cares nothing for your wellbeing.
One should not underestimate the brutal sonics of this record, nor the magnificent metallic crunch of the guitars. ‘Perseverance’ is a genuine groove metal blast alternating between deep stream-of-consciousness voice and baritone chanting. This will get your shoulders swaying in no time but might also plant the image and noise of five thousand goose-stepping boots crunching against tarmac in military choreography. How curious, then, that Northmaan eases off the thrash metal for the second half of the record, instead plunging even further into the dark introspection with ‘Torture First’ and ‘Dying Star’. The former is like Fear Factory at their most contemplative with more dominant keyboard sequences, while the latter starts with signal jamming and air traffic control voices before gearing up into the dystopian void of ringing fifth chords and flanger vocal effects. It all culminates in closing track, ‘Tolerate’, which reads like a list of grievances against the wretched aspects of civilised life. Fat drop-tuned chords and chugging rhythms are the order of the day here for your serving of dystopian darkness.
Northmaan is the soundtrack you deny on a daily basis. It seeps into your system and disturbs the equilibrium of your existence. This is a serious work of art.
Release Date: 26/03/2021
Record Label: Devfire Ent
Standout tracks: Self-Destruct, Perseverance, Dying Star
Suggested Further Listening: Godflesh – Streetcleaner (1989), Prong – Rude Awakening (1996), Strapping Young Lad – City (1997)