Reviews Northwoods Wasteland

Northwoods

Wasteland

'[T]here the nightingale filled all the desert with inviolable voice and still she cried, and still the world pursues, "Jug Jug" to dirty ears.' And likewise, with dirty ears, the 'Jug Jug' of Northwoods' Wasteland will lose their hard earned respect, slowly. A respect sucked through a straw from the pool of distracted in-fighting popular music. The average listener, if the statistics are correct, votes with their dollar the competence bubbling to the top of the music industry. Amongst us, below the bickering pop-stars, wandering the wasteland are various souls not only searching, but diagnosing, and solving the self in collective psychoanalysis. And we must also vote with our gaze, for the more we peer into true ‘goodness’, the more we peer into ourselves. What we find is unsettling and unmarketable. We weep upon hearing the disgusting music broadcast in public from shop windows; and as we wipe our over-lit mirrors clean with our tears of mediocrity, we discover we’ve yet to clean the dirt and blood from our face, still fresh from a barbaric past. The morality of our progress sucks away from us like we sucked music’s divinity dry, leaving a barren wasteland, dry with potential, flooded with dead wood, playing out an ironic tune of emptiness.

Wasteland offers a solution to this problem. Although it doesn’t lay out the problem in a sophisticated way, it tangentially leans toward escape from a devastating event, in search of the miraculous, while projecting the real world of fear, and suffering onto an unlucky psyche…or is it the other way around? T.S. Eliot has something to say about this in his Waste Land.

It’s not hard to order things in a way that brings both works into new light. As the 'music crept by me upon the waters', it snuck through the desert that was so hostile, causing the greatest of thirsts, while paradoxically making the elixir that quenches all. According to Eliot, 'here is no water but only rock…and the sandy road…winding above among the mountains...without water. Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit.' The wasteland is all that is opposite of balance. In the world of balance, spring (April) stirs dead roots, breeding life, and mixing 'Memory and desire' with 'spring rain', while winter keeps us warm in its blankets of forgetful, insulating snow. The balance of opposites—discovery vs. ignorance, life vs. death, April being cruel vs. winter keeping warm—enables the continual revelation that within the season of life weaves the seed of death, and within the season of death, lies the hibernating tubers of life.

But since our winters are now longer Eliot asks, 'What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this stony rubbish?' And as you walk on the sandy road, among the broken stones he also asks, 'who is that on the other side of you?' It is the weight of memory, the man inside, having a daily conversation with you. Northwoods' bellows, 'throw on the ground your conscious and become a man that you should be.' He is the Jungian self: the psyche in its totality, the Christ within, our potential that we are continually rendering actual, beyond the (necessary) illusion of good and evil. 

It is also our shadow: all the evil that we can’t admit ourselves capable of. 'Son of man, you cannot say, or guess, for you know only a heap of broken images, where the sun beats, and the dead tree gives not shelter.' He goes on, '[o]nly there is shadow under this red rock, and I will show you something different from either your shadow at morning striding behind you or your shadow at evening rising to meet you. I will show you fear in a handful of dust.' 

In this most unnatural revelation, that the wasteland spans culture wide, and, according to Northwoods, 'all fears have become phobias,' we follow the path, the Mobius strip, where inside becomes outside and back again, and we are afraid of even a mote of dust. It is why we must both 'try not to disappear' in our self and 'try not to appear' as only shadow, at the same time. We must also dance the line between reality and illusion, for “the promise land” is no longer believed in. As a result 'there is not even silence…[b]ut dry sterile thunder without rain. There is not even solitude…but red sullen faces sneer and snarl from doors of mud cracked houses.'

The ones 'thought to live away from the unknown'—now discovered to be illusion—are left at the behest of it, for 'the unknown’s right infront of them (finding lies).' It is precisely that with which we ignore, behind us, which asserts its reality to us in paradoxically hidden ways. Northwoods follows the 'descent into these barrels prisons' where the 'end will cease the sleep of reasons.' Reasons for what? Maybe it will wake reasons for incivility, reasons to exert power, and will on the weak and unfortunate; or reasons to 'cure' mankind, one solution being suicide. Since mankind has become 'the sickness', 'the cure will leave us lifeless.'

Although the music has a definite leaning toward negative angry thought, it doesn’t oversaturate in pathetic 'dark' melodies, or corny metalcore excuses for harmony, in general 'emoness.' Even if “Moebius” is the most 'naïve' song, it quickly redeems itself in catchiness. The rest of the album is aggressive and energetic in a neutral way; it is dissonant, and moody, yes, but neither cheaply nihilistic, nor embarrassingly emotional.

Northwoods’ work the dissonant power chord with the rhythmic 'jug, jug' in a balanced way. Shimmering nasty dissonance, disharmony, chug and reckless rhythm, crazy enough to make it interesting, yet controlled enough to keep everything on track (think rollercoaster, instead of stormy seas). Polyrhythms on “Future is a Shadow Line”, and a portentously dark melody in “Detachment” make me appreciate how Northwoods dances their tension of opposites.

So in a kind of healing measure, Northwoods proffers their mantra, their healing mandala of balanced opposites, feeling our way into wholeness. For when meaning is absent, '[o]ur suffering will lead us to our atonement.'

7.8 / 10Robert F.
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Tor Johnson Records
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7.8 / 10

7.8 / 10

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