Rise Of The Northstar - The Legacy Of Shi (Album Review)
About the band
Rise Of The Northstar is one of those acts that have had a very interesting career. With two phenomenal EPs and only one very well received debut LP (Welcame) in the span of nearly a decade, when ROTNS releases an album, it’s always something special. This is doubly true, considering that - until this point - nearly everything they released was self-produced. The sound was crisp and mixed absolutely perfectly. The riffs were deep and catchy with hardcore-style change ups and Vithia either rapping or growling motivating stories derived from Anime and Japanese culture, in a way only he could pull off.
So when these talented French musicians released the video for “Here Comes The Boom,” I was admittedly skeptical of the title. Once I saw the video and heard the track, I felt silly for doubting. It was imbued with that special Rise of The Northstar “Super Saiyan” energy, yet it seems to have some mainstream appeal as well.
I, like many, was surprised to see that there was a different drummer instead of the charismatic Hokuto No-Kev. (Vithia later explained this.) With new drummer Phantom now in the act, the band traveled from France to New York and recorded The Legacy Of Shi at GOJIRA’s Joe Duplantier’s studio. Joe also co-produced the album. So far, the fan response to the singles from Shi has been good, especially their latest single “Nekketsu,” which showcases how good new drummer Phantom really is.
So, is the concept album The Legacy Of Shi worth the four-year wait?
The Legacy Of Shi
The Legacy Of Shi is an album that stands on its own. The elements of Crossover is in a lot of the album. Especially with the hip hop interludes which seems to be a continuing trend in modern hardcore music lately.
After the intro and the first teaser tracks, which seems to point that ROTNS still stick to their roots and they haven’t gone anywhere nor will they, the real story of Shi that Vithia discussed seems to start with the song “Kozo” which seems to explain the demon that possesses him. It’s a very soul bearing song that I can respect. The feel of the track fits the topic nicely. Throughout the album, songs like “Teenage Rage”, “Step By Step”, and the album title track continue this autobiographical trend with breaks in the story line with songs like “This Is Crossover”. It’s a familiar formula that at times can be a train wreck to the story line, but the entire flow of Shi never gets interrupted.
Vithia explained that this album goes a lot deeper lyrically. Vithia’s lyrics have always been very fun and motivational, but they are from a dark place at the same time. This isn’t the first time this concept has been explored in past tracks such as “The New Path”. To go the route of becoming more personal lyrically is a big step. He also chose to speak more French in his vocals, but his English is a lot more legible this time around. It still doesn’t take away from the music since his flow is still the same.
Altogether, this is a more organized, controlled and disciplined ROTNS as opposed to the unorthodox, yet beautifully chaotic Welcame. The riffs are heavy and catchy with the hallmark Furyo hooks and beefy distortions. Phantom’s drumming keeps up the pace nicely. Vithia explores all sorts of vocal ranges and effects throughout the album. Even Fabulous Fab’s bass skills are featured a bit more. If Welcame was not your cup of tea, Shi is a great album to give ROTNS a second chance with this more polished sound.
I will just come out and say it. I love this album, but for a different reason than I did Welcame. Their other work is very pissed off and in-your-face. This time around, they dial it back a little and go a bit deeper lyrically - which I do not mind this evolution at all. One thing that was a cause for concern was that the album could be too tame and radio-friendly. While songs like “Step By Step” and “Here Comes The Boom” definitely have that type of mainstream appeal, it doesn’t hurt the overall intensity of the album.
Another thing I love about this album is that the entire concept in the story of Shi is a very identifiable one. I seriously get it. Instead of a punch in the face (as producer Joe Duplantier described ROTNS’s previous works), this is more like a shove against the wall and being given an explanation (in metaphor!) about why. It almost seems like one of those “exorcism” type of albums, if you know what I mean.
My only real complaint was that the album ended. Doesn’t matter how a ROTNS album ends, you don’t want it to. You’re left with the same feeling after the album-title track closes out Shi. I have yet to hear bonus track “Sayanara” on the Japanese release, but I have heard it was real good.
I also don’t normally say this, but I have to state that the media campaign for this album for a band like ROTNS, who mainly do festivals and very rarely do interviews or podcast appearances, has been flawless. The more information given on this album, the more I was sold. Not as a fan, but as someone who loves Metal music in general and can see the uniqueness of this act as a casual listener if given the chance to listen.
This album is definitely worth buying. I don’t think it will alienate their hardcore audience, and it may just bring in some new listeners as well.
What did you think of The Legacy Of Shi? Let us know and comment below!
Rise Of The Northstar is a Sharptone Records act and The Legacy Of Shi is available through Nuclear Blast Records. There are various hard copy packages available online. The Legacy Of Shi is also available on most audio streaming platforms including Spotify and Itunes. Find ROTNS on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other various social media platforms.