NEPTUNE - Northern Steel
November 29, 2020, 2 months ago
‘80s band reunited with a compilation of old demos (in '18) before original singer Ray Alex passed away. For their 35 years-in-the-making debut, Ray's brother Row has taken over the mic, along with long-running guitarist and drummer. Additionally, they asked some Swedish guitarists/friends to help them out, including HammerFall's Pontus Norgren, adding a solo to mid-tempo "Fallen Nations", with a riff that recalls Judas Priest.
Know it has been half a lifetime, but do you still have to begin the album with a Viking longboat sound effect ("The Prophecy") counting as one of the dozen songs? Especially when syncopated, electronic "clapping" "Viking Stone" sits directly on its heels. Metallic picking that introduces repetitively simplistic "Last Man Standing" belies its hard rocking stance. To start, peppy keyboard accents spice up slightly modulated voiced "Angels". The chugging groove of the titular selection is a bit of a surprise from "old-timers", in a good way. "Black Rain" locks into a similar ABBA meets Heavy Load beat, but to less effect. It's a barn burner, in comparison to ballad "Land Of Northern". Don't know the history, but that one should never have seen the light of day! And then, with group vocals? Ugh. K-Tel drivel from the ‘70s has more staying power. "Seriously" gets, ahem, serious...programmed electro-backbeat and sing-along chorus. In a rare moment of painting a darker soundscape, there's "Ruler Of The Sea", as opposed to flute, mandolin/lute "Vanheim". It closes the album atypically, almost in film soundtrack style, the lone voice being female operatic scales and a foreboding male voiceover that spins a brief tale, whereby name checking several of these songs titles. So is it meant to be a concept album? Would account for the lack of cohesive sound. Maybe next time, although doubtful we'll all be here in 2055.