Soundchecks Music Reviews

Where Twilight Dwells by Midnattsol

Napalm Records

Midnattsol band lineup


review by Octavio Ramos Jr

Norwegian for 'midnight sun,' Midnattsol makes a most impressive debut with Where Twilight Dwells, which builds upon a traditional gothic metal foundation by incorporating strong doses of Norwegian folk music and sprinkles of well-conceived power metal. The emphasis on both music and lyrics is on the darkly fantastic, of creatures that come out only under the unnatural glow of the midnight sun. Sensual and seductive, this music touches upon the souls of dreamers everywhere.

Fronting the band is none other than Carmen Elise Espanaes, sister of Liv Kristine Espanaes (Leaves' Eyes and Theatre Of Tragedy). Little sister is also blessed with an enthralling set of pipes, but hers have a bit more range, particularly at the lower end, thus enabling her to create a fuller sound. Her presence is keenly felt on the faster tracks, such as the powerful Haunted or the crown jewel of this collection, the masterpiece Tapt Av Hap. She also at times sounds just like Liv, such as on the track Enchantment, which is a dead-ringer for something that easily could have been produced by Leaves' Eyes.

Christian Hector and Daniel Droste provide the band with its power-metal based roots, as well as some folk trappings, by handling electric and acoustic guitars, as well as the mouth harp. Acoustic guitars bring to life tracks such as Unpayable Silence (which reminded me a lot of power symphony) and Tarefall. Further adding to the folk music is keyboard player Daniel Fischer, who also provides subtle stings that give the material a decidedly darker tone. Anchoring the band is a solid rhythm section consisting of drummer Chris Merzinsky and bassist Birgit Ollbrunner.

Lyrically, Midnattsol mines the rich mythology of Norway and its many peoples to revitalise stories that have existed for many hundreds of years. Interestingly, author Doreen Krase has written a book that explores similar myths. Titled En Dans I Midnattsol ('a dance with the midnight sun'), the book is a Nordic fairytale that explores many of the myths and folk tales showcased on Where Twilight Dwells. Lyrics are written in English, Norwegian, or a mix of both. The following sample is taken from the track, Another Return: "Can you hear them speaking?/ Tones from a hidden place/ With a licentious play/ They reach you in a sensuous way."

Fairytales have an infinite quality that resonates through generations. Midnattsol has captured this essence in a bottle and has used its intoxicating fumes to fashion an aural equivalent in Where Twilight Dwells. Meeting between the harshness of the 'troll metal' of Finntroll and the power metal based folk of Korpiklaani stands Midnattsol, whose spirit lies more with the smaller, gentler folk. Where Twilight Dwells does not crush or pound the heart, it soothes it.

Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press