North of South – New Latitudes Review

Band: North of South
Album: New Latitudes
Label: Rockshots Records
Genre: Progressive Metal
Country: Spain
Release Date: September 28th, 2018

Progressive is a term we apply to music when its contents are too sprawling to categorize into one style of writing. Typically noted by technical musicianship and genre-jumping songwriting, many have attempted to add the title to preface their reputation—with some succeeding and others failing in conceptual and sonic messes. New Latitudes, the debut effort of Spain’s North of South, composed solely of Chechu Nos, easily falls into the former with what can be best described as a toy box of sounds. Hurling through the style and techniques of metal, rock, jazz, pop, and flamenco with Spanish and psychedelic textures, Nos has delivered a fantastically written album that will only leave the listener wanting more.

To get it out of the way early, there is little wrong with New Latitudes. It is far easier to judge its varying levels of success than its failures, and it manages to remain as engaging and fun while still retaining a conceptual and musical complexity. Nos has a lot to say in this thirty-five-minute LP and wants the listener to know that from the beginning. With the opening track, “The Human Equation,” North of South lays bare the full brunt of its musical arsenal. Letting loose a waterfall of music, the listener barely has time to adjust before finding oneself swept away in a both an enchanting and bizarre presentation which rarely slows down.

Honestly, the instrumentation and song-writing on New Latitudes alone offer enough in their depth to fill the content of this whole review. Nos tackles the task of lead vocalist and sole musician and succeeds phenomenally throughout. Just about every popular style of metal guitar since its inception has a chance to lead the main structure of a song that is then punctuated and contrasted with acoustic, rock, and Latin passages that bring to mind the likes of Carlos Santana and Omar Rodriguez Lopez. Drums consistently switch back and forth between easy-to-bob-your-head-to beats and outpourings of stylized prog-drumming that can be downright jaw dropping when combined with a deafening guitar solo balanced with a bass that was thankfully not buried in the production. On that note, the presence of the counter melodies and chords from the bass guitar allows the instrument to play a much larger role in New Latitudes than what is typically seen in the metal genre today and is wholly welcome and refreshing.

Vocally, Nos offers an impressive range on his own performances. Switching between harsh but mostly clean vocals and alternating between Spanish and English, he covers an extent of philosophical and existential topics that any longtime fan of prog or science fiction will feel right at home with. Synth and keyboards are present consistently but are much more in a support role, and, though not having nearly as flashy moments as their instrumental counterparts, still manage to consistently catch the ear in some of the more jazz-influenced tracks. All of these moving pieces culminate best when Nos decides to show off his musicianship in dazing passages of searing progressive music that bare resemblances to many influential prog acts of recent years while retaining his own unique musical voice.

If for the sake of discussion there is a negative to be brought up, the overall quality in production and mixing is not up to the technical equivalency of most other progressive metal albums. During certain passages, the mix can sound strained and, at worst, dated—especially when taking into account other releases this year. Bear in mind, New Latitudes was produced by Nos himself alongside audio engineer Zolio Unreal, which points towards early dabblings in musical experimentation more than mistakes. North of South seems determined to carve out its own niche sound in the metal landscape than follow a blueprint for production.

New Latitudes by North of South is a gleeful exercise in the art of abrupt stylistic change with each of its nine tracks containing nuggets of kaleidoscopic musical collisions. With plans already in the works for future releases, Chechu Nos is a man to watch moving forward. Easily being one of my favorite release of 2018, New Latitudes is an easy recommendation to any fan of progressive metal or those seeking something a little on the stranger side.

Rating: 8.5/10

1.The Human Equation
2. Nobody Knows
3. Balance Paradox
4. Before We Die
5. Crystal Waters
6. There’s No Glamour in Death
7. Time Will Tell
8. Faith is Not Hope
9. Montreux

Total Playing Time: 35:10

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