North's last full-length, The Great Silence, was a sprawling epic of atmospheric sludge, and an album that both I and Aaron Sullivan enjoyed quite a bit. (He saw fit to put it on his 2012 best-of-year list.)
Their new EP, Metanoia, finds the band in similar sonic territory, but with a more stripped-down feel. This probably isn't surprising, because this EP credits only three of the original members from The Great Silence. The press notes mention a lot of internal struggle in the band, struggle which apparently almost ended the group completely. That would have been a shame, because Metanoia is a powerful emotional statement. The word "metanoia" means a spiritual conversion, usually through repentance, and there's definitely a sense of bittersweet triumph in the music.
As I mentioned, the band may be stripped down in membership, but that's not to say their compositions are any less epic. You'll still find plenty of jangly, chiming atmosphere mixed with 10-ton riffs and gravelly bellows, but there's also an immediacy to this EP that's very compelling to me. All of the tracks are excellent, but "Nefelibata" is a stand out for me. The word "nefelibata" is Portuguese, and it appears to roughly translate to someone who lives in their own imagination, but perhaps better described as someone who treads the space between idealistic dreamer and iconoclast. There's a duality to the song itself, a mix of quiet synths and swelling, aching vocals, which are somehow delicate and melodic in spite of being close to growls. The guitars build, grind, stomp, and echo, sometimes in the course of just a minute or two, and the rhythm section carries everything deftly along. I had a visceral emotional reaction to this song the first time I heard it, before I'd looked up what the song title meant or read anything about what the band may have gone through to achieve it. It's possible I'm just projecting my own desires to survive and triumph through rough times in my own life, but I think it's just as likely North has achieved something truly touching.
I could talk on about the other three tracks at length, but now's as good a time as any to tell you to just go listen for yourself. The band describes this as "the transition EP," but taken the wrong way, that might do the music a great disservice. North may be on their way to new territory, but the journey of this EP is well worth lingering on.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]