“Tales From The North” is the debut EP from Swedish melodic black metal group Midnight Rites, and before the music even begins, the band has set the mood perfectly with a fantastic album cover. Once things do get going, however, the most noticeable aspect of this release is the vocals. To put it lightly, they’re messed up. Midnight Rites’ singer sounds like someone undergoing an immense amount of torture. His screams are strange, and quite unlike any I’ve heard before. On the first listen, this is a bit of a cool novelty, but admittedly, after a few more listens to the EP, it does become a bit frustrating. Their vocalist does have the ability to use more standard growling and shrieking tones, but does not bring those out too often.
The musical approach on “Tales From The North” is similar, but to greater effect. Due to the delivery of the vocals, the band chose to produce a lot of tension musically. Double bass appears frequently and enhances any dissonance or intensity that the guitars are offering up. The semi-decent production really complements this sound; it is good enough to hear everything clearly, but not so good that it loses the raw emotion of the music. Keyboards do not often take center to aid this sound, but the intro of “Legions of the Damned” is one example of where the band uses a keyboard interlude to conjure up a disturbed atmosphere.
There is a slight appearance of clean vocals on the aforementioned track, but fortunately it is brief. The singing isn’t terrible or anything, but mixing cleans and harshes is really something that should be done on a more intense/serious basis; bands need to fully commit to both to make it work. Nevertheless, this short section doesn’t take away from the blasting or intense tremolo picking that appears later in the song to again provide a dark environment.
“Tales From The North” is an EP that shows a lot of promise. Its primary advantage is not grounded in memorability or songwriting, but more in the feelings it evokes, a theme that is common to much black metal. The vocals are going to be the dealbreaker for a lot of people. They don’t totally miss the mark, and at the very least, they make Midnight Rites stand out from the crowd, but for me, I’d prefer a more straight forward approach. Regardless of that fact, this is a band I would not sleep on.
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All of it
3.8/5 or 76%.
Written by Scott