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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review: Kari Rueslåtten - To the North


Is it still ‘metal’ enough to review an album of a singer who metalwise climaxed 20 years ago with her band The 3rd and the Mortal and het collaboration with Storms album Nordavind?

Although Kari’s time with The 3rd and the Mortal was limited to two years, one full album and an EP, the impact on the metalscene was immense. The album Tears Laid In Earth was the inspiration for Tuomas Holopainen to start his band Nightwish, and probably bands like The Gathering and Theatre of Tragedy owe a great deal of credits to this album.

No wonder that Kari Rueslåtten joined Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering and much more) and Liv Kristine (ex-Theatre of Tragedy, Leaves’ Eyes) on stage last year as a trio: The Sirens. They sang songs of their former bands and songs of their solo-careers.

Would this inspire Kari to make heavier songs, I wondered. To the North is het sixth solo-album in twenty years. Her first solo work was folky, and evolved from almost poppy to singer-songwriter. Kari never turned a blind eye to the darker side of life, though, with songs like ‘Dead’ or ‘ Other peoples stories’.

To the North brings once again folk/singer-songwriter music with a dark edge and a surprising cover version of The Byrds’ Turn Turn Turn.

The album as a whole is not very different from its predecessor Time to Tell. Kari’s magnificent voice is supported by a band, but still remains the main focus of the songs. After three nice songs, Three roses in my Hand brings a different, almost celtic sound into the song. When she sings ‘I hear you calling me home’, one can easily surrender to this atmosphere and fly over to Norway to be part of a minimalistic, yet impressive place Kari calls home.

Although the songs are all well build and the musical quality is great, this is one of the few songs that stand out.

Letting Go starts with a darker mood, with more electronics, but never bombastic, nor danceable. The song is a possibility for Kari to use a lower region of vocals, which is a nice change and suits the mood. The song is followed in a likewise mood by the next song , Arrow in my Heart.

Basically the song that hits the heart most is The Byrds’s cover Turn Turn Turn. God, I never realised the lyrics in the original song, because it was too happy. Kari covers it with a dark veil, taking more time for ‘a time to dance, a time to mourn’. Steve Pilgrims male vocals add a bit more mystery to the song.

With the finale song, that gave the title to the album, this mystery deepens even more. The ambient sounds and the mantra ‘To the North’ takes you to the Northern Light and into its magic. A perfect ending for a hard day.

It makes me conclude that the album could easily be an LP with two sides: the first part of the album folk style with a full band, the second part darker, with an ambient ending.

The album is a mirror for the vocal qualities of Kari Rueslåtten, whose voice and former band inspired a development in a part of metal history. This does not make it an album for metalheads. It makes it an album for people who enjoy well composed music, in a folk/singer-songwriter style, where the heaviness is more in the lyrics and emotional performance than in musical arrangements and loudness. And why could metalheads not enjoy that?

Written by Martijn Bakker

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