Although Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen (then still with her previous band, After Forever), and Pagan’s Mind guitarist Jorn Viggo Lofstad had never actually met before, when they played a handful of cover versions during an ‘All-Star Jam’ at Progpower USA in 2007, the two hit it off immediately. Discovering they both shared a fondness for basic, stripped down heavy rock music, the pair sat down the following year and wrote an album’s worth of music quite different to what they were both producing at the time.
Due to constant scheduling conflicts, the work remained unfinished, but in 2017, while Nightwish were enjoying a well-earned year off, the pair finally got back together and with the help of producer Jacob Jansen (Volbeat) completed work on the project. Going under the name of Northward, the duo enlisted the help of bassist Morty Black (TNT), keyboard player Ronny Tegner (Pagan’s Mind) and drummers Jango Nilsen, and Stian Kristoffersen (Pagan’s Mind), and the eponymously titled Northward (Nuclear Blast) is the result.
Opener ‘While Love Died’ is reminiscent of nineties Brit Rock act Skunk Anansie, possessing a hard, driving rhythm and a fast and loose Foo Fighters style chorus, while the short, sharp riffing of ‘Get What You Give’ changes into a chorus not a million miles away from Alter Bridge. ‘Storm in a Glass’ is nice and bouncy with a suitably poptastic chorus, and duet ‘Drifting Islands’ features Floor’s sister Irene Jansen. ‘Paragon’, although essentially a standard power ballad, features one of the record’s best choruses, and the anthemic ‘Let Me Out’ is Velvet Revolver with attitude.
By this point, it’s clear that Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple have been big influences on Northward, and next track ‘Big Boy’ is every bit the groove-laden slab of classic rock you’d expect. ‘Timebomb’ opens with more pinch harmonics than a Zakk Wylde mixtape, while Floor gives her standout vocal performance on ballad ‘Bridle Passion’. The full-throttle rocker ‘I Need’ quickly slaps the album back to life, before the seven and a half-minute ‘Northward’ closes the record with its inspired soft rock and Devin Townsend style progressive leanings.
Stepping away from the multi-layered orchestral pomp of Nightwish and just belting out some good old-fashioned rock songs is clearly something Floor needed to get out of her system, and she does so here with dynamism and attitude; a solid album from one of metal’s finest singers.