Atomic Fire
rating icon 7.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. The Anthem
02. Showdown
03. Third Strike
04. Crank It Up
05. One Love
06. Shogun No Shi
07. Clan
08. Raijin
09. Golden Arrow
10. Rise [ライズ]

There are certain sections of the metal media that are so desperate for a nu-metal revival that any band with a faint affiliation to the genre is immediately grabbed and offered as evidence that, yes, it's really happening this time. It probably isn't, of course, and RISE OF THE NORTHSTAR deserve better than to be proclaimed guilty by association. As they demonstrate with plenty of verve on "Showdown", the French crew's sound is far smarter and all-encompassing than they are generally given credit for. They have more in common with BODY COUNT, HATEBREED and STRAY FROM THE PATH than any of the feeble, identikit rap-rock bands that dribbled out in LIMP BIZKIT's wake; and with several moments of death metal intensity and dark, melodic grandeur, their third full-length is no kind of myopic throwback. When it does hark back to the era of oversized trousers and casual misogyny, it does so with one compositional eye focused firmly on the future.

The band's intentions are made clear from the start. "The Anthem" is a 60-second slap around the chops, hewn from sludgy metallic hardcore and a sprinkle of madness. "Showdown" employs a slippery, KORN-like groove, mutating into a churning deathcore groove for a chorus that tips its cap to SUICIDAL TENDENCIES. "Third Strike" is a brutal swarm of riffs, delivered at a snotty punk pace and infected with the spirit of Floridian death metal. "Crank It Up" plays out like a Jamey Jasta onstage sermon, but welded to a bellicose, "Burn My Eyes"-style groove that is tailor-made for inciting violent pits. "One Love" weaves a hip-hop pulse into a dark and punishing barrage of staccato grubbiness.

For all of their debts to the past, RISE OF THE NORTHSTAR have an impressively singular way of doing things. "Shogun No Shi" pulls off the impressive feat of sounding like a funky CROWBAR; "Clan" veers into melo-death territory, albeit with a raging hardcore edge and a languorous, prog-tinged final coda; "Raijin" is SLIPKNOT-heavy and splitting its seams with massive riffs; "Golden Arrow" starts as flat-out thrash metal, before mutating into a curb-stomping riot with shades of PRO-PAIN. The closing "Rise" is perhaps the most surprising of all: a straight-ahead modern metal song, replete with post-djent ambience and raw-throated rapping, it is a low-key gem.

"Showdown" is a lean and mean piece of work. No single idea outstays its welcome, and everything is hard-hitting and taut with conviction. Nu-metal fans will love it too, and rightly so, but RISE OF THE NORTHSTAR's righteous hardcore belongs firmly in the here and now.

Author: Dom Lawson
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