Northern Lights was a major step forward for Aurora Borealis. By this point in their career, this black/death metal act had already already established themselves as one of the most promising bands on the scene, and their first two releases were ones that impressed in nearly every regard. With Northern Lights, however, Aurora Borealis went from making "damn good" music to making "completely unbelievable" music. This album represented some of the strongest material that Aurora Borealis had written up until that point, and it still stands as one of the band's finest achievements. Ron Vento's top-notch guitar work, Derek Roddy's insane drumming, and the crushingly brutal riffs make this effort an absolute success from every aspect. Anyone with even a passive interest in black/death metal should put Northern Lights on the top of their priority list - this masterpiece from 2000 is not to be missed!
Aurora Borealis has always played a style of technically-inclined black/death metal, and Northern Lights doesn't differentiate itself much from the band's other works. There are a few acoustic sections, melodic riffs, or even the tribal-like drumming in "Distant", but this is first-and-foremost an extreme metal record filled with blast beats, fast tremolo picking, and raw vocals. What really makes Northern Lights even more impressive than its predecessors is the sheer power of the compositions - seldom do I hear so many memorable, fresh riffs on one album. The fantastic execution makes these unrelenting compositions even more impressive, even to the point where I could consider tracks like "Draco" and "Thrice Told" among the finest in all of extreme metal. Ron Vento has always been one hell of a guitarist, and his powerful style of riffing, parred by equally stellar solos, makes his performance on Northern Lights one of the best I've heard. And, of course, the drumming from Derek Roddy is equally impressive. The man is simply a technical behemoth, to say the least, and dishes out plenty of relentless blast beats and an added edge of sophisticated fills to always keep things interesting. Ron Vento's rock-solid bass playing and tortured vocal performance help flesh-out the atmosphere even more, leading to a chaotic (yet somehow beautiful) journey through the deepest depths of extreme metal.
My major complaint about the previous Aurora Borealis album, Praise the Archaic Lights Embrace, lied in the hands of the muddy production. Although Northern Lights maintains the raw, unpolished fury of the previous album, it somehow sounds a bit more complete and enjoyable than their debut. This isn't nearly as well-produced as albums like Timeline: The Beginning and End of Everything, and I still would've liked a slightly more professional production, but it's not problematic enough to serve as a detriment to my listening experience. And, when the music is this good, it's hard for mediocre sound quality to get in the way of my enjoyment.
I always seemed to think that Aurora Borealis got better over time, but it seems that they also peaked early with this amazing sophomore album. Northern Lights is a fantastic effort, and also one of the best albums in the death/black metal genre. I've had an absolute blast listening to this observation, and even though it took a few listens to "click", I can now recognize this album as an outstanding extreme metal masterpiece. 4.5 stars and a strong recommendation are very well-deserved. Along with Timeline: The Beginning and End of Everything, this is probably the best entry point into the wonderful world of Aurora Borealis.
1. Thrice Told (3:50)
2. Enter the Halls (4:55)
3. Images in the Nightsky (3:36)
4. Draco (4:26)
5. Sky Dweller (4:47)
6. Hydrah (3:55)
7. Dream God (4:25)
8. Distant (2:41)
Total Time: 32:35