The Great White North
posted on 5/2011 By:
Hey, what’s going on here? I thought that mathcore has already been relegated to the category of “has-been-but-is-no-more” subgenres of metal. And here’s Norris and their Canadian take on mathcore and, you know, it’s not half bad.
To come clean from the get-go, I have to admit that I hold no great affinity towards mathcore. Oh, I have quite a few records of the shit: Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity and Miss Machine enjoy quite high rotation percentage; so does Human Remains’ proto-math-core, off-kilter take on death metal, or Coalesce’s, Burnt By The Sun’s and Botch’s best works. But I really wonder who can truthfully say that he/she even likes repeated listens of, say, The End’s completely impenetrable slab of chaos in Transfer Trachea Reverberations From Point: False Omniscient, or War From A Harlot’s Mouth's twitchy takes on the genre.
Anyway, to return to the job at hand, Norris approaches mathcore in a way that can easily endear them to people who cannot stand the completely chaotic stance of the purveyors of such music. That’s because these Canadians try to infuse their songs with an almost constant sense of groove. Even when they get into chaos-and-destruction mode, or when they trudge nervously (as in “The Dregs”), there’s always a bit of rock-jutting for the listener to hold on to and to get at least a general idea of what the band’s aiming for. To say it in another way, the band seems to try to streamline as much as possible the inherently jagged, dissonant and difficult-to-follow sound of mathcore.
This is done either by repeating motifs in each song that give a sense of repetition and linearity, or by creating an underlying rhythmic pattern that the ear can decode as something vaguely “familiar.” (Like, say, sensing a 4/4 rhythm or something approaching groove.) Of course, this being mathcore to the... umm... core, the band members display great instrumental chops. The guitar-bass-drums interplay is of the highest caliber; the tempo and time-signature changes are jarring but never seem forced; and the vocalist’s throaty howl (plus some cleans here and there for good measure) is appropriately tortured and angst-y. So, no surprises here.
Actually, besides the sense of groove that I mentioned before, the only curveball to be found is the piano-only ditty “Peasant”, which acts as a respite from the draining music that surrounds it. Bottom line is that Norris does what it does well (that is, playing mathcore) and The Great White North is an enjoyable, technical and listenable work that deserves the attention of the aficionados of the genre, if not the whole metal community.
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