Originally formed in 2013 in Örebro, Sweden as a six piece metalcore band, NORMANDIE underwent some line-up changes prior to releasing their well-received debut album of 2016, ‘Inguz’, which included the departure of their heavier co-vocalist. Since then, the band have toured with outfits including HANDS LIKE HOUSES and YELLOWCARD.
NORMANDIE have just released their sophomore album, ‘White Flag’ (26.10.18) and I was lucky enough to hear some of these album tracks live during one of their performances supporting HANDS LIKE HOUSES a couple of weeks ago. White flags have long been used as a symbol of surrender, and that is the theme running through this album, whether that is surrendering to love, to another person, in battle, giving in, or in another way; it has many interpretations.
Opening track ‘Ecstasy’ is one of the songs the band played live on their recent tour. Despite only having heard it once before, in that live setting, it obviously made an impact because I recognise it instantly. Philip Strand’s vocals start off softly and build, slowly getting heavier, before breaking at the sing-a-long chorus where there is some hand clapping and grungy guitar riffs. Anton Franzon on drums and Lucas England on bass power out an undercurrent of steady beats as the song bats between heavy and light. What a great start to an album!
Title track ‘White Flag’ is another track played on the recent tour. It also begins slowly with a soft vocal and gentle lick and builds quickly with impeccable quick-fingered guitar riffs from Håkan Almbladh and thundering drums, which give way to softer interludes throughout; it’s the dramatic tale of a relationship coming to an end and you can hear the angst in Strand’s vocals as he relays the story.
‘Enough’ is about being in that relationship that is so bad for you but you just keep going back for more. The lyrics fit that circumstance perfectly, and musically you can feel the conflict and contradiction. ‘(Don’t) Need You’ is a catchy track that edges into pop, with techno aspects. It didn’t grab me on the first listen like some of the other songs on this album but was definitely more of a grower. The vocals sound stunning on the softer interludes, combined simply with drumming. ‘The Bell’ is an emotive song with beautiful harmonies in places. The bridge is sung in the band’s native language which adds a different dimension, Strand really does have an incredible voice but I think I was so used to all the soaring and dipping in all the other songs that this ballad suffers for that and feels like it doesn’t quite lift off the ground.
‘Moth’ and ‘Maniacs’ are both intense, rock/pop fuelled, high energy tracks that I can imagine really get the crowd bouncing if played at a live show, full of lively riffs, booming bass lines and pounding drums, soaring vocals, the latter with addition of some heavier vocals in places too. ‘Summer’ is the shortest track on the album but that doesn’t mean it’s the least important. In addition to showing off Strand’s haunting vocals, it highlights Almbladh’s heartfelt and sublime musicianship too. I just wish the song was longer. ‘Keep Fucking It Up’ is self-deprecating at its finest, all wrapped up in a rock/pop toe-tapping, bouncy tune that defies the title. It’s telling you that despite the fact you ‘Keep Fucking It Up’, it’s really going to be fine. ‘Fever’ sends us back to full on rock mode and those brilliant light and shade moments.
Last track ‘Heaven’ is intense, packed full of thundering, intricate drums and powerful, blistering bass. There are parts where you can hear just the vocal alone and it sounds breathtaking, the slight huskiness in Strand’s voice gives me goosebumps. It’s haunting.
In ‘White Flag’, NORMANDIE have produced an album that shows growth and maturity from their debut. Each song is well-crafted, intelligently written and has a captivating story to tell, both lyrically and instrumentally, each piece fitting together perfectly. The album shows great diversity, it’s a meld of so many sub-genres, both within the rock/metal umbrella and outside of it too.
‘White Flag’ track listing:-
2. White Flag
5. (Don’t) Need You
6. The Bell
10. Keep Fucking It Up
Find out more about NORMANDIE here:-
Official site: http://www.normandieofficial.com/