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Northumbria - Helluland (2015) - Review

Band: Northumbria
Album title: Helluland
Release date: 31 March 2015
Label: Cryo Chamber

01. Because I am Flawed I Forgive You
02. Still Waters
03. Sacred Ground
04. Maelstrom
05. A Door Made of Light, Part I
06. A Door Made of Light, Part II
07. Song For Freyja
08. Catch A Knife, Part I
09. Helluland
10. Catch A Knife, Part II

The Canadian duo, consisting of Jim Field and Dorian Williamson who came together in 2011 to form a project which is based on largely improvised soundscapes, created just by use of disingenuous sounds of guitars and bass and recording their work completely live. Until now I was't familiar with this project and consider that Helluland is already their third full-lenght I feel a bit ashamed. After the self-titled debut released in 2012 and 2014's second proper full-length entitled Bring Down The Sky, Northumbria comes with this new opus which is a conceptual one and very much introspective piece based on the Norse discovery of Baffin Island in Canada over thousand years ago, so hence the name Helluland, which means in old Norse "the land of flat stone". Helluland is for sure their most minimalistic, dark and ambiental work to date, thus it marks a new musical direction for the two.

We are talking about a soothing ambient release here, full of atmosphere, magic and cinematic soundscapes. From the very beginning on you'll be imersed into the world where you can let yourself go with those guitar manipulations creating a word full of inner peace by combining atmospheric drone melodies with dark ambient sounds. It's an introvertial journey where you can almost feel and see in your mind the horde of Vikings lead by Erik the Red, how they were surprised when they landed on the frozen grounds of those islands in Northern Canada just under Greenland, as spoken of in the Icelandic sagas and discovered it to be of little interest. It's like hearing the ice producing the sound when it welcomes the visitors. The vast droning melodies are often suspensful and those insertions of horrific dark ambiental parts deepen the whole picture in a marvelous way. I can't really say that the music on Helluland is a typical representative of the genre called dark ambient, it has some slight similarities with the most recent Northaunt album, but it's not that dark, of course with some exceptions like is "Maelstrom" or for example the broading darkness of the eleven minutes long title track where you'll with ease forget about all the material world that sorrounds you. Yet it offers more expansive sound with most of the tracks being in a constant movement and can become very dense, some even very rich in texture like both marvelous parts of "A Door Made Of Light" with such an emotive feel all over it.

You must take your time and relax to fully grasp this release and believe me that you'll be grateful to Northumbria when the piece like it's "Song For Freyja" will conquer your soul and mind with the lush sound that's only heard in Valhalla when the dead are joining the masses of those who have died in the combat known as Einherjar. Then the strange feeling of compositional complexity in the rather psychedelic "Sacred Ground" brings kinda feel of wondering, of danger and fear that sucks the listener even more into this unobtrusive expansive soundscape. Such a picturesque journey created with such an ease and minimalism. Still it's not my intention to separate the tracks from each other because Helluland works as an entirety and can be best consumed only like that in the full absence from any living or dead matterl. There are no vocals used, but you can almost hear the dead tragic heroes screaming out, and you can almost see the plundering ships softly sliding through the icy waters and carrying adventurous people to the new discoveries. That's what's about Helluland, an inner adventure for your soul.

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 8/10