Saturday, 10 August 2013

Northwinds - Masters of Magic (2001) | 89%

Baguette doom series part II : Le Vent de Paris


One of the earliest doom metal bands from France, Northwinds is one of the hidden jewels waiting to be discovered by the metal universe. Known by the aficionados of the genre, they deserve more recognition from a wider audience and I think it's only a matter of time since they play (and always have) something quite trendy these days. They indeed play some kind of doom intertwined with 70s dark hard rock, some psychedelia and even folk music.

Formed in the late 1980s, the band remained a demo band for more than 10 years until the release of their excellent debut “Great God Pan” and their sophomore “Masters of Magic” was released in 2001. It's perhaps my favorite of their discography and that's why I decided to review it. Compared to their 3 other albums (they're not a very productive band unfortunately), it doesn't have cover songs in it. While I appreciate the nod to the influences here and there, having 2 on the same album like on their latest “Winter” is hardly justified. It's okay when it's a bonus track but eh, I want to hear some original music, not a Saint Vitus cover even though half of “Clear Windowpane” was in French. But that's on another album and I'm complaining for nothing, this album is original goodness from the first second to the last!

One noticeable thing is the fact both the introduction and the conclusion to the album were composed and played by Steve Sylvester, the front man of Italian cult band Death SS. They're short atmospheric ethereal numbers full of organs and mesmerizing whispered vocals. It was quality bread for an awesome and consistent sandwich. It can take a while to eat though, it's slow and magical (hehehe, yeah...). The songs are all pretty lengthy but the epic track “Entre chien et loup” is the peak with its 15 minutes. I really really like when the band sings in French, it's very special and I think the whole album should had been in Molière's beautiful language. There's also the romantic track about the Arthurian legends “Broceliande”, the name of the mythical forest in the stories of Merlin and company.

The band has Sabbathy doom parts with thick bass licks and rich heavy riffs recalling the pristine early releases of the Englishmen but they're far from being a conservative doom band like many others, not that I think there's anything wrong in keeping it traditional something made obvious by many of my reviews. Northwinds is indeed including a large amount of classic progressive rock and folk rock influences. In the utmost old school tradition too, nothing of this neo prog style with 30 minutes rude keytar solos. There's the aerial feel of Pink Floyd and the medieval romanticism of Jethro Tull thrown for good measure. Not the heaviest representative of the French doom scene but certainly one of the more interesting.

If slow proggy doom numbers is your thing, Northwinds' sophomore will be a treat for you, if you prefer your doom hard rockin' and with a beer smell, check out Children of Doom (to be reviewed!), there's everything you need in the French Doom scene, mon frère!

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