Northless is a heavy, unforgivingly bleak Wisconsin treasure. Info
Over the past 12 years, Milwaukee band Northless has made an enduring contribution to heavy music, exploring all sorts of variety under its leaden doom-metal shroud. Songs like "Godsend" (from Northless' latest album, 2017's Last Bastion Of Cowardice and "Sundowner" (from 2011's Clandestine Abuse) irradiate the listener with the bleakest areas of the human experience, dredging up so many rich shades of misery and violence that the music ends up evoking profound empathy rather than exaggerated despair. Guitarist Erik Stenglein's vocal style is a burly bellow and a curdling shriek all at once, and at its best—for instance, Last Bastion standout track "Never Turn Your Back On The Dead"—comes off as the cry of someone who's very much alive and feeling it all, whether they like it or not.
Northless expresses all that pain and pessimism with restless creativity, and it's never as simple as just another good sludge band. "Tears From Crime," from a 2012 split with Light Bearer, captures the band's ability to draw on the scuzzy wriggle of noise-rock and the epic sweep of Neurosis all at once. The four-piece also knows how to slow down and let things breathe, starting Last Bastion's title track off with two minutes of restrained, ringing guitars and building rather gracefully into the song's stormy core. Here's hoping they continue to surprise us while battering us into submission. They'll also fit nicely here alongside Madison band Corridoré, who released a self-titled debut album of expansive black-metal-meets-post-rock pieces earlier this summer. —Scott Gordon