This review was originally posted on Discovered Magazine in October 2018.
If there is one word to describe the sound Rise of The Northstar has unleashed with their new album, ‘The Legacy of Shi’, it is BIG, and once again, it’s allowed for the Parisian crossover band to present a unique, genre-bending sound the scene has never heard before.
Drawing all sorts of inspiration from Japanese pop culture – arcade games and characters found within 80s Manga included – and what they have seen over the years in America with the rise of hip-hop, Rise of the Northstar have taken those elements and blended them together, creating the powerful hardcore sound found on ‘The Legacy of Shi’.
‘The Awakening’ opens up the album with someone speaking Japanese, drums echoing in the background, transporting listeners to Rise of The Northstar’s post apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo universe they have created. Listeners are following the journey of central character Shi, from his awakening to his evolution as a spirit who takes possession of a human host, bringing up the battle of how we win the fight within ourselves while also trying to overcome our limits to reach our full potential.
“…YES, THEY ARE A GENRE-BENDING BAND AND THEY AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE ANY TIME SOON. “
Now, on paper, there are a lot of different elements to consider when listening to ‘The Legacy of Shi’ and, well, Rise of the Northstar in general. You have a band that has lyrics in both English and French, vocalist Vithia’s native tongue, who also use both hardcore and hip-hop influences to deliver a concept album based around this Neo-Tokyo universe and fictional character. Out loud, it just seems like there is a whole lot going on without a ton of connection, but somehow through everything, Rise of the Northstar have created an album that, in the end, makes sense.
‘Here Comes The Boom’ is the quintessential hardcore groves with hip-hop influence track the album really needed to help keep Rise of the Northstar’s distinct sound clear amongst all of the different ideas that were put into the album. It was smart for this song to come second, because it reestablishes the main sound Rise of the Northstar’s fans are used to before transitioning into more of the heavy conceptual tracks.
A song that really helps bridge the gap between Rise of the Northstar’s message as a band and the post apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo universe they have created is ‘This Is Crossover.’ As if the title wasn’t a give away, the chorus lyrics are “this is cross over, North Star forever,” the band using this song as a way to let onlookers know that, yes, they are a genre-bending band and they aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
At the same time, ‘This Is Crossover’ makes references to Japanese pop culture, including “I wanna rule the game like my boy Sakuragi” which refers to an animated television character on the show Slam Dunk. In time, Sakuragi rises in strength and confidence through playing basketball, relating back to central character Shi who is figuring out how to get over limitations of his own.
“RISE OF THE NORTHSTAR MANAGED TO PRESENT ANOTHER STRONG CONCEPT ALBUM THAT DIDN’T COMPROMISE THEIR SOUND OR THEIR CORE MESSAGE AS A BAND.”
Referencing Paris, where the band is from, Brooklyn, where the album was recorded, and Fukushima, a city in Japan, ‘Furyo’s Day,’ furyo meaning prisoner of war, brings all of Rise of the Northstar’s concepts together once more. As one of the last songs on the album, it rounds everything up, referencing, again, a lot of Japanese pop culture like Kenshiro, a character from the First of the North Star manga series, that is known as one of the strongest Manga characters of all time. This ties back to the album’s central character Shi as he finally is able to reach his full potential at the end of his journey. ‘Furyo’s Day’ also pays homage, again, to the band’s overall message, the lyrics closing out the song being “this is the furyo’s day, deal with my french accent,” an obvious message being presented about how the band has been criticized in the past.
At the end of listening to ‘The Legacy of Shi’, your brain can kind of be in a scramble as you try to pick out all of the different references and ideas that are weaved throughout each song. Some people will love it, others not so much, but, in the end, Rise of the Northstar managed to present another strong concept album that didn’t compromise their sound or their core message as a band.
While there may be one too many elements involved, there is no denying that what Rise of the Northstar continue to present to the hardcore genre is unique, different and hard to ignore.