When Floor Jansen announced right before Nightwish was to take time off from touring, that she had a side project in the works, fans got quite excited. At the time, we did not quite know what that meant, but, Floor + Side Project often meant good news. As someone who has been following Floor Jansen since 2007 when she was lead singer in the band After Forever, I was very excited. I had kept-up with her work after the band split, and was a fan of her endeavors with ReVamp as well. A talented vocalist and singer, it often amazed me how few people were familiar with her, even in the metal genre. That all changed when she joined Finnish metal band Nightwish. For many who either never heard of her, or only knew her by name, she would become a household name for fans of Nightwish.
When Northward was announced, there was very little in terms of ideas on what the side project would sound like. Most of us were used to Floor and her soaring vocals that often accompany the bombastic, symphonic sounds of her bands. As a fan of many forms of music, including rock ‘n roll in the vein of Halestorm, Breaking Benjamin, and Shinedown, I was pleasantly surprised about this album when the first single premiered a few months ago. While I am much less familiar with Jørn and Pagan’s Mind, I can certainly tell he is an extremely talented guitarist (and I do plan to check-out his band now as well).
I reviewed “When Love Died” back when the single was released, and so I will move on to the next track on the record, “Get What You Give.” This song has a great chorus, just like the first track on the record. We already move on to the rock variety of this album when listening to it. The track opens with Jørn’s fantastic guitar work, before easing into a great drum beat, which continues throughout the song. “Storm In A Glass” was released as a lyric video on the day of the album release. The chorus of this song is a bit more upbeat, although the lyrics are not. A song about self-acceptance in a world where we constantly judge ourselves as often as others judge us.
“Drifting Islands” was a song many fans were waiting for, because it is a duet between Floor and her sister Irene Jansen. Many fans are familiar with Irene for her work with Ayreon, and we have had the pleasure of seeing the sisters perform together through work on Ayreon projects. However, it was a treat to finally hear them together on one of Floor’s projects. Originally I think most of us expected this to be a ballad, and were surprised to hear it was far from a ballad. Irene and Floor’s voices are similar enough that at first listen, you do have to pick apart who is singing the different sections. However, the song itself is another great rock song with good hooks, solid chorus lines, and more great guitar work by Jørn.
“Paragon” begins like an acoustic ballad, and feels very 1990s, which is certainly not a bad thing for most of us who grew-up on 1990s and early 2000s rock. What makes this song stand-out is the fantastic and heavy guitar work at the end of the song, which comes out of nowhere during a first listen. Further proving Jørn’s great talent, five songs into the album. “Let Me Out” is another heavy rock track which opens quickly and brings Floor’s vocals back to how she sings on “While Love Died.” The theme of nice, radio-friendly choruses continues through this song. “Big Boy” was a song I looked forward to after watching the preview videos Northward teased us with days leading-up to the album release. Inspired by disco beats, the song is a great heavy rock track you can either dance to or head-bang to, or both. A personal highlight on the album for me.
“Timebomb” is the first of really three ballads on the album. It opens heavy, and falls into a nice constant beat, giving Floor the vocals to carry the song. It still has that 1990s ballad feel to it, which suits Floor’s voice beautifully. The ballad part does fall away toward the end of the song when it switches to a heavier rock track and Floor once again uses that powerful voice of hers up against Jørn’s great guitar riffs. “Bridle Passion” on the other hand is a true ballad. Soft throughout the song, Floor offers her emotional voice for us. A song that would suit well for a slow dance. It would also make for a nice lyric video.
“I Need” already seems to be a fan favorite when polls are taken. A slow roll into another heavy rock track, this song feels like it should be blasted with the top down on the way to the beach. Floor uses her more aggressive vocals on this song, the drum work is strong, and Jørn’s guitar work is worth mentioning again. This song is perfect for the final “regular” rock song featured on this album. The final track “Northward” is a seven minute long song. Nothing new for fans of either band. But it is not a seven minute long symphonic metal track. It’s a gorgeous long rock track. Soft as a ballad at some points, and heavier rock during others. Floor’s vocals bringing in listeners with her angelic and beautiful fragile handling of the lyrics. But the song doesn’t let us end the album without another epic guitar solo by Jørn, who deserves as much mention throughout this album as Floor Jansen. At that point in the song, Floor eases out of her fragile vocals and reminds us we are listening to the Queen of Metal on a heavy, hard rock album. A song that was perfectly chosen to end this album.
Wrapping-up my review of this album, I conclude it to be one of the best releases of this year. 2018 has seen many albums released from both blockbuster artists and smaller independent artists. It will once again be a rough year in attempting to rank favorites. However, if you enjoy rock and roll, or music by either Floor Jansen or Jørn Viggo Lofstad, you will most certainly enjoy this record and should give it a listen. While the chances of Northward ever touring are very slim, I certainly hope to hear more music from them, even if we must wait another decade. Solid release by this side project, and worth the long wait. Don’t hesitate to pick-up your copy today!
- While Love Died
- Get What You Give
- Storm In A Glass
- Drifting Islands (Featuring Irene Jansen)
- Let Me Out
- Big Boy
- Bridle Passion
- I Need