(Andy Synn digs into the upcoming third album by long-time NCS favourites Turbid North)
Pick up a coin, any coin, and take a look at it.
Now, turn it over. What’s changed?
In some ways, not much. It’s still the same object, after all. Still the same size and shape, still composed of the same elements and materials.
Yet, at the same time, it’s now showing you a whole new side of itself, a whole other face that you couldn’t see before, even though you knew it was there.
And that’s a surprisingly fitting metaphor for what Turbid North have done on The Decline.
With the band’s previous record, Eyes Alive being not just one of the best albums of 2015, but one of the best albums of the last decade, Turbid North could have been forgiven for simply staying the course and sticking with what worked for them.
After all, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?
But that’s not what they’ve done.
Sure, the constituent parts are largely the same – massively heavy riffs and gut-rumbling growls, swaggering, sludgy grooves and luridly proggy melodies – as are the primary touchstones (Misery Index, Mastodon, Crowbar, etc) but the final product has a subtly different, albeit instantly recognisable, flavour of its own.
Much of this is down to the dynamically doomy – at times, almost cinematic – vibe which permeates the album, which becomes immediately apparent during the opening pairing of “Eternal Dying” and “The Oppressor”, whose blend of languid, heaving riffs, bleak, brooding melodies, and moody melodic vocals (building, eventually, to a more traditionally titanic roar during the latter track) introduces you to a version of Turbid North which you may not be quite as familiar with as you thought.
That’s not to say, however, that the band have suddenly become unrecognisable, by any means – Eyes Alive certainly had its own fair share of dark and doom-laden moments, after all, as well as occasional experiments with clean vocals – nor have they “gone soft”, as some of the most extreme material here (such as the neck-breaking gallop and gargantuan grooves of “Slaves”, the unflinchingly savage Death/Grind of “Patients”, and the bombastic, blast-driven assault of “The Old Ones”) is arguably even heavier and more intense than ever.
But it’s to the trio’s credit that rather than simply repeating the same, successful tricks from last time – though there’s no doubt in my mind that the stunning slow-burn of “Life Over Death” and the frantic, shapeshifting “Drown In Agony” would certainly have fit in alongside the very best of their previous record – they’ve opted to flip the coin and showcase another side of their sound (as exemplified by the almost Cult of Luna-esque depth and density of colossal closer “Time”) rather than simply letting themselves slip… into decline.