By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – There was a time when the future of Arizona-based sludge rock outfit North seemed as clear as mud. Maybe that uncertainty was okay with them at the time, but a lot has changed since drummer Zack Hansen, guitarist Matthew Mutterperl and bassist/vocalist Evan Leek first started jamming together in Hansen’s Tucson bedroom back in 2005.
“We were definitely offering an alternative. It also didn’t help that nobody else was doing what we were doing at the time,” says Hansen of the local climate for their post-metal experimentations. “We started out as an instrumental band, and this was around the time that Explosions in the Sky and Pelican were on the rise, and I don’t want to say we hopped on a trend, but we certainly helped start one, in the southwest at least. If you’re not playing radio rock, or pop punk, or something a bit more popular you’re going to have to establish your own mindset and your own scene.”
Expanding on the uniquely groovy doom constructs introduced on their self-released 2006 debut EP Siberia, North shifted a more vocal-dominated sound with What You Were in 2008. The band continued to tour and write despite line-up changes and karmic stumbling blocks. Down two members following the release of The Great Silence in 2012, Hansen, Mutterperl and Leek decided to recommit and relaunch the old and improved North as an ironclad trio.
“We talked about it as building up our arsenal and building upon the sound. It got to a point where we started to breakdown what we really wanted to do and we started to accomplish that with less and less people,” Hansen recounts. “From the moment we took the three-piece on tour for the first time, people were astonished that we could bring that volume and intensity with just the three of us… That made us really happy, because it’s what we had been envisioning for a couple of years.”
The band has emerged from the sea of feedback worshipers and fuzz-lords as a sleeker more agile version of their former selves. North’s latest offering Light the Way (2016), produced by Dana Fehr (Digger, Mandingo, Pelican) and mastered by Colin Marston (Genghis Tron, Kayo Dot, Gorguts), traverses the invisible lines drafted between progressive and classic metal soundscapes while foretelling that the true extent of North’s foray into sonic devolution has yet to be charted.
“We like being a chameleon and not being pigeon-holed into one genre, and being able to open our arms to as broad as an underground listenership as possible,” says Hansen. “Light the Way is our first full-length as a three-piece and that became the prevailing theme; figuring out the future direction of the band going forward.”
NORTH performs October 16 at the Brixx (Edmonton) and October 17 at The Palomino Smokehouse & Bar (Calgary).Brixx, NORTH, The Palomino Smokehouse & Bar