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If Children of Bodom practically invented the power metal-with-death vocals subgenre, it was fellow Finns Norther who recognized the style's innate capacity for the utterly ridiculous, as well as their own capacity for sounding almost exactly like their scene luminaries. Half a decade later, Bodom's popularity has risen as quickly as their artistic credibility has fallen, and there's room at the top of the Finnish power metal game for a new contender. With this in mind, it's hard not to feel that Norther have missed a trick. Like Bodom, their recent material has become increasingly thrashier, playing down the melodic influence of keyboardist Tuomas Planman and instead focusing on more straightforward, aggressive, riff-based metal. Certain stylistic updates have been made: singer/guitarist Petri Lindroos makes more use of his clean vocals, most notably on the goth-tinged chorus of "Frozen Angel," while the dual-guitar passages are, on the whole, more tasteful and in tune with one another than on previous records. Unfortunately, while these changes help Norther achieve a more coherent sound, it comes at the expense of much of the character that made previous records such unadulterated fun. With the exception of highlight "We Rock" and the gloriously abrasive "Self-Righteous Fuck," the riffs are bland and the melodies uninteresting, while even the playful grandiosity that defines power metal is a rare commodity.

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