Thursday, August 29, 2013

Norselaw-Serpent In The Circling Sea


Let me just start off by saying that there are underground bands and then there are DEEP UNDERGROUND bands. Take a wild guess as to which category Norselaw falls into. That's right folks, this is one of those WAY DOWN deep underground names. We're talking WAY DOWN past the C.H.U.D.S. and even past the Morlocks! That says something alright. Or does it? What exactly does it say (if it says anything at all?) and what exactly does it all mean? Mostly it just means that's not a whole lot to go by when it comes to the somewhat mysterious Norselaw and the slightly-odd album that is "Serpent In The Circling Sea". Here's what I can tell you. First, the band supposedly hail from the bad streets of Cleveland, Ohio. And when I say "bad" I really mean the righteous streets of Cleveland or rather the metal-loving scene that hails from Cleveland. What's weird though is the fact that even though they were supposedly formed during the winter of 2003 this is the first time I've heard of this Cleveland act. More and more there's all these "new" Ohio bands popping up that I never knew of meaning my so-called "expert knowledge" of Ohio heavy metal is pure bull-shit! Oh well and hell. Anyway, the second piece of info that I was able to dredge up suggested that Norselaw originally went by the name "Valhalla Ice" (clever!) and was (maybe?) a rap/metal outfit to begin with! Now that would be strange. The thing is it's all so vague. I ended  up going to what seemed like dozens of sites just to dig up some/any bits of information so I could add some background information to this piece. Who knew that it would be so hard to cut through all the misinformation to get to the truth of about this heavy metal act? It's like trying to get the real scoop on our government! It's a daunting task! But, it is what it is so let's move on down the road and get to the next piece of info. As you may have been able to figure out by that last piece of info Norselaw is less of a band and more of a musician. On the self-produced "Serpent In The Circling Sea", which was written by Norselaw, our main-man "sings"* and handles all the guitar playing. That's not too unusual so far right? Well, not only does he handle lead vocals and all the guitar playing, but he also finds time to showcase his skills on bass guitar by pulling off a bass solo! That's a little different I'd say. On the track "Green Lazer", which FYI is a lovely little track all around, our songwriter/vocalist/guitarist (and part-time bassist!) channels the spirit of the late and, damn wasn't he, great Cliff Burton for a quick little bass solo that is down-right sick! That's not to say that Norselaw (the "band") lacks a bass player as there is a "Theon Greyjoy" mentioned in the credits. Both "Theon Greyjoy" and drummer "Jaime Lannister" go by  pseudo names which only adds to the mysterious nature of not only Norselaw, but also of this recording. Why there was the need for pseudo names is any ones guess. It's not as this rhythm section falters or anything. This pair does a pretty smash-up job all around. So, that brings us to the million dollar question I suppose. What exactly does Norselaw sound like? The easiest answer would be that Norselaw sounds like a N.W.O.B.H.M band as imagined by a punk heavy metal band. That's it. That's all there is to it. It's all so rather simple if you think about it and yet it flat out works. And no one is as surprised about that then I am! But, while it might be a simple mash-up there is nothing simple about Norselaw and his skills as a guitarist. There are some sweet licks on here that bring to mind Motörhead while at other times it's almost as if Norselaw has ripped some pages out the N.W.O.B.H.M. handbook to serve as a blueprint to rock out! Otherwise I have no idea who to compare this band to (sound-wise) which is a remarkable achievement for Norselaw. An original sounding band? Yes, it's pretty true! Sure, you might pick up Motörhead and maybe some Lord Weird Slough Feg. And, truth be told, there were some parts of Norselaw's sound that reminded me of Valiant Thor (another band that mixes in punk, classic metal and Lord knows what else in order to rock to their own beat!), Ironboss, Motherboar and Brutal Attack (minus all Brutal Attack's racist bullshit of course!). But those kinds of flashback moments happen all the time when you're listening to (newer) bands. You're likely to always find something familiar in any metal band these days as there are so many bands that have come before. Even in this case the roots might show through on occasion, but it's still an original sound overall and one which any open-minded metalhead would enjoy! This slab of unique metal is going to get quite a few more spins this week and in the weeks, months and years to come!

*The vocals of Norselaw go from being gnarly to downright weird. Sometimes it came across as if he had been gargling petrol before hitting the mic while other times he came across as some old punk trying to find a measure of redemption. All in all though Norselaw gets it done and gives this act a wicked underground feeling!

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