I reckon so many reviews of this album are going to start along the lines of “What would you expect from a project between guitarist Jorn Viggo Lofstad of Prog/Power Metal band Pagan’s Mind and virtuoso power vocalist supreme Floor Jansen (Nightwish/Revamp/ex-After Forever)? Well, probably not this…”. But that’s the point really – why do a side project that sounds like the bands you are already a part of? This album has very little in common with Symphonic Metal, or Power Metal, but thankfully isn’t one of those “sensitive side” acoustic projects that sometimes surface either.
On the whole, this project has much in common with the modern metal directions of of Halestorm, Nemesea, Alter Bridge and criminally underrated ex-fellow Nuclear Blasters All Ends. There’s not a dampened guitar riff to be seen, it’s bombastic open chords all the way with energetic rhythms and a reliance on vocal lines and choruses…and that neatly brings us onto the contributions of Floor Jansen. She is clearly physically unable to deliver any kind of lack-lustre half-arsed vocal performance, and is understandably a shining light on this project. Anyone who has heard Pagan’s Mind might accuse Lofstad of (probably harshly) dumbing down a little musically for Northward, but he is exploring a different musical style and what’s wrong with that? The main problem would be if the vocals were a little run-of-the-mill and…errr…I did mention it’s Floor Jansen!
Given the record company description of this project I doubt I would have bothered with it (Skunk Anansie and Foo Fighters…???), but I figured Floor Jansen would have other ideas and I was right. She lifts each song with her trademark power and dexterity, even if there is seemingly on the surface little in the music to latch onto at times, it becomes utterly engaging and contagious when Floor lends her experience and talent to proceedings. There’s maybe not a particular amount of depth to many of the songs but there is ALWAYS a memorable hook or chorus, delivered with massive conviction and professionalism – but then I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Covering a wealth of urgent hard rock/modern melodic metal styles and moods (Personally, I particularly enjoy the quicker tracks like ‘Let Me Out’ and especially ‘I Need’ for what it’s worth), Northward immediately elevate themselves to the head of their musical field with the talent involved. Sometimes I’m left wondering if Lofstad is basically writing backing tracks for Jansen, but there are so many instrumental moments, quirky tempo changes and even the occasional lead-break that it has to be a true collaboration. The two main aspects of the project gel so well together and in that an honesty and integrity shows through, making the more cynical out there who might view Northward as an attempt to tap into a younger audience to think twice. But even if that is the case, then why the hell not? OK, it’s not going to appeal to all of the two protagonists existing fanbase, but it will appeal to some and attract new fans that will check out their other bands – so it’s win win for Northward.
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)