Friday 17 November 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Northless - "Last Bastion of Cowardice"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 17/11/2017
Label: Gilead Media |
Halo of Flies

Northless’ chemistry has gotten better, and the compositions are much more rich and the effect is nothing less than absolutely crushing.  If you enjoy intelligent sludge, "Last Bastion of Cowardice" is for you.

"The Last Bastion of Cowardice" CD//DD//DLP track listing

1. The Origin Of Flames
2. Godsend
3. The Devil In Exile
4. Slave To A Scorched Earth
5. Their Blood Was Always Mine
6. Never Turn Your Back On The Dead
7. Extinction Verse
8. Last Bastion of Cowardice
9. Our Place In The Dirt
10. Rotting Days

The Review:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes that one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness in a given year, while one in 25 will experience a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. We've seen these issues played out again and again on the national stage, often in the form of violence. However, tragedies are only the hint at a much more widespread problem.

Now 10 years into its career, Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Northless has continually captured hopelessness in its blackened, noisy sludge. Their 2011 album "Clandestine Abuse," 2013's "World Keeps Sinking" and the 2016 EP "Cold Migration" gave fans intense, personal and heavy music. Their new album, "Last Bastion of Cowardice," delves headlong into a much darker place, telling the story of a person who discovers the futility of violence.

In his day job as a social worker, guitarist/vocalist Erik Stenglein mentioned in recent interviews the scope of mental illness he sees on a daily basis. Human suffering an institutional lack of empathy and neglect for people's most basic needs are all far more significant than you might imagine. His experience, combined with today's headlines, offer a poignant backdrop to what is, even stripped down of concept, a savage return for Northless.

Fans of Northless' work will take in its first one-third of the album with a lot of satisfaction. Drummer John Gleisner and bassist Jerry Hauppa concoct a sinister foundation for those first three songs. "The Origin of Flames" opens festivities with a tremendous noise rock/post-punk influence that enhances the sludge base of the quartet. "Godsend" slows the rhythm down as Stenglein's mammoth vocals take center stage. This cut also lets you appreciate Nicholas Elert's guitar riffs and his overall contribution to the band. As you reach "The Devil In Exile," which brings back in a bit more of the post-punk and even hardcore edge to the band, longtime listeners will appreciate the maturation process for Northless. The group's chemistry has gotten better, and the compositions are still more rich. Oh yeah, and the effect is nothing less than absolutely crushing.

Furthermore "Last Bastion of Cowardice" is effective because it weaves stories that are at once topical and still not crack-you-over-the-head political. No shots at bands who can make political music; 2017 has seen many exemplary songs that are socially conscious. Northless just happens to be the strongest at creating a mood and presenting songwriting that everyone can relate to in many a fashion. Without spoiling more of the story, Stenglein and company are faithful to telling their story through the tracks. "Their Blood Was Always Mine" is tightly wound lyrically. If you enjoy intelligent sludge, "Last Bastion of Cowardice" is for you.

"The Last Bastion of Cowardice" is available here and here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook