By Mark Johnson
Losing band members is rarely a pleasant experience, but sometimes forced change can be a blessing in disguise. For Normandie, the departure of their bass player and screaming co-vocalist in 2015 presented an opportunity to shift from metalcore to something more melodic and the result is a highly impressive debut album. Inguz is their first exploration into alternative pop/rock and, led by the excellent vocals of now lone frontman Philip Strand, they’ve made quite a statement.
The band waste no time getting stuck in, “Fight” and “Awakening” serving up huge slabs of sound that are as infectious as they are powerful. Strand’s vocals are perfectly suited to such powerful anthems, mixing a warming tone with just enough raspiness to keep each song firmly grounded in the alternative rock arena. This edge in Strand’s vocals prevents certain songs from crossing the line into cheesy pop-rock, such as “Something New” which, despite its jarring, pop-oriented opening, ends up being one of the highlights of the record, thanks to Normandie’s eagerness to retain aspects of their heavy roots in their songwriting.
For the most part this is achieved through the instrumentals which stay closely connected to the band’s metalcore past, retaining the downtuned guitars and heavy riffs to give Normandie an aggressive backdrop against the catchy vocals. The huge riffs and pounding drums are a welcome reminder of the band’s more aggressive credentials and by retaining these heavier elements, Normandie manage to cater for those looking for more bite and impact in their music, as well as brilliantly structured vocal hooks to sing along to.
Each of the album’s ten tracks are excellently written and brilliantly executed however the production style doesn’t compliment the raw edge of the band’s instrumentals. The heavy riffs lack maximum impact due to the guitars sounding overly processed rather than holding a crunching, natural tone and the multi-layered vocal effect reduces the character in Strand’s voice on some of the bigger choruses.
Despite the production niggles, Normandie’s debut album is an unquestionable success, packed full of fist-in-the-air anthems that manage to be catchy yet aggressive at the same time. For their first attempt at alt-rock, they’ve managed to produce a highly consistent album that could easily contain ten singles, as each track races through without a bar of filler material. Inguz proves that good things can be borne from unfortunate circumstances and now that their debut album is under their belts, they’re well on their way to making a big impact in their newly chosen genre.