After releasing a couple of albums through the Come&Live! ministry, metalcore act Fallstar signed to Facedown Records and released a phenomenal album called Backdraft in 2013. With a seemingly bright future, the band pumped out one more album independently (through their own record label, Rat Family Records) in 2015 before falling silent. But they haven’t been up to nothing, it seems, as they’re resurfacing with their new project, Northlander.
Forces of Light first surfaced a couple of months ago, also through Rat Family Records. When Northlander got the offer to re-sign with Facedown, the album was pulled from the online shops and scheduled for an official re-release. So if you’re reading this, you may already own a copy and know what the album sounds like. But if not, don’t go in expecting anything like Fallstar’s fast and heavy sound; Northlander has an indie rock sound in the same vein as bands like My Epic and Valleyheart. However, it’s easy to hear traces of Fallstar in the songwriting and melodies. Songs like “Heavy Fruit,” “Praying Drunk,” and “Solaris” all have moments that really remind me of a few songs from Backdraft. Forces of Light also gets heavy for a bit in “Cliffs,” which features screaming and harder guitars. But this is about where the similarities end.
Truth be told, Northlander had to grow on me quite a bit before I really came around to this album. My first listen left little impression upon me, but each time I reached the end of the tracklist, my desire to revisit it grew. Now I find it to be an impressive album with terrific songs, quality songwriting, and excellent musicianship. One highlight comes early in “Oculus,” with a driving rhythm and beautiful guitar work. It’s a song I want to put on repeat for a few listens.
“Onyx Dust” is also a beautiful track. Though I was taken back a bit by the use of “g*d d*mn” right at the beginning, the rest of the song features wonderful melodies and a nice, subtle electronic sound mixed in. Save for the language, it’s easily one of the album’s strongest offerings. The end of the album features the strongest concentration of songs, though, starting at “Saint Sorrow.” The final two tracks, especially, are masterful and make me just want to start the whole album all over again. The only song I truly don’t care for is “Cult Leader.” It’s catchy as all get out (I never thought I’d have to stop myself from singing “I’m a cult leader” around my wife and daughter), but the overall sound of the song is a 311/Dirty Heads-esque alternative reggae mix that I just don’t like.
Lyrically, Northlander deals out quite a bit of vague imagery. A lot of times it’s not clear to me what the message of the song is or who it’s about or directed toward. For instance, “Oculus” could be about the Lord, or it could very well not be. But it does seem like it is with a chorus that says, “Did you know that I can feel you in my blood / there’s not a moment that I want you gone / you’re the part of me that makes me feel alive / the lamp that never burns out in the night.” Forces of Light does well with not only coming from a place of brokenness but also addressing it and pointing to God as the answer, even if somewhat vaguely. “Air” is a good example: “Celebrate the waking conscience that replaces hearts of stone / and we pray for the end of violence hoping someday it will come / see the cypher correspondence only love can break the code / I hear voices at my window and your song is in my lungs / and it feels like water refreshing my soul / and it feels like heaven is so close to home.” “The Sun Came Dancing on the Rain” ends rather hopefully, though. After singing about waiting for a better day, it concludes with, “Do you see with the eyes of the lover / do your hands hold what others throw away / when you lay my body in the earth / you’ll know I’m going to find a better day.”
After an initially unsatisfying listen, Forces of Light has grown to be one of my favorite rock albums of 2019. It’s solid from front to back and has loads of replay value. The variety in sound rarely feels out of place (“Cult Leader” being the only exception), and the production and writing are fantastic. The language in “Onyx Dust,” brief as it is, is rather disappointing, especially for a Facedown release. So take that into consideration before listening. However, if you didn’t jump on this album when it first released, you’ll definitely want to get on it this time around - and consider adding it to your end-of-year top ten list.- Review date: 12/5/19, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Facedown Records
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