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Artist Spotlight: Northern Light Orchestra

Sometime in mid-June, I began getting references in my RSS feeds to a band called Northern Light Orchestra, which supposedly had free Christmas music available for download.  At first, I dismissed these blog posts as spam for a number of reasons: first, they were rather poorly written, as if they had been written in another language and then auto-translated into English; second, when I clicked on the links in the posts, I could never find the music that had been promised; finally, well... who writes about Christmas music in June anyway?  Still, I was curious, and as time went on, I began to learn a little more about Northern Light Orchestra.  When I discovered that musicians like David Ellefson (former Megadeth bassist), Dizzy Reed (Guns N' Roses keyboardist), Bruce Kulick (former KISS guitarist), and members of bands like Whitesnake, KoRn, and Quiet Riot were involved with the project, it became something I simply had to hear.
After reading a couple of these blog posts each week for several months, I was finally rewarded in the last week of October when the link led to a page with actual downloadable MP3s.  I downloaded the MP3s and began listening to them immediately.  Since I had been waiting to hear this music for such a long time, I can't possibly think of a more appropriate way to officially begin the 2009 free Christmas music season.
As might be expected given the musicians involved, Northern Light Orchestra's sound is primarily rock and metal based.  I was immediately reminded of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but I think that is more due to the fact that there just isn't that much rock-based Christmas music around.  My favourite song so far is "God Was Born a Baby", which starts off with the sound of a choir before launching into an excellent rock groove.  Just when it sounds like the song is over at around four and a half minutes, it picks back up for an epic guitar solo, which lasts almost two minutes, and then winds down with an orchestral outro.  "Joy to the World" features a great instrumental breakdown with a drum solo and soaring guitar leads.  There are mellower songs, too.  "Joseph's Song" has an adult contemporary feel to it, while "We Have Come to Worship" you is a nice ballad with gorgeous vocal harmonies.  "Goodnight" is a pretty little piano- and vocal-based lullabye sung to baby Jesus.
There seem to be alternate versions of some of the songs on the band's iLike page.  "Joy to the World", for example, features some additional orchestration and vocal harmonies as compared to the version on the band's website.  This exemplifies the only real problem I have with NLO - namely, a great deal of confusion.  Their website states that their album, The Spirit of Christmas, contains nine songs, and that they have another nine songs in production "for next year" (not sure whether they mean 2009 or 2010 by that); however, the amount of songs available for download is neither nine nor eighteen, and the songs that can be downloaded have different album names and track numbers between the different versions.  It's not enough to stop me from listening to the music, but I can't help but feel how much better it would sound as an album with a proper track list.
Though Trans-Siberian Orchestra may have popularized rock-based Christmas music with their trilogy of albums, Northern Light Orchestra proves that there is still room for more of this type of music.  Their take on Christmas music is a thoroughly enjoyable one - this is something that I would gladly pay for if given the chance to have it as a proper album.  I hope you enjoy it too - please leave a comment here or send me an email to let me know what you think of it.  Happy listening!


Zube said...

There IS a proper album. I spotted it today at FYE. It's called "Spirit of Christmas" and has 17 tracks ... a few of which haven't been on the site.

Jeff said...

Oh, that's awesome! I'll definitely keep an eye out for that so I can put my money where my mouth is. ;) Thanks for the heads up!

john said...

Oh yes!!! I have good collection of christmas rock songs You will find the list very interesting...

David said...

I think I found 17 tracks for download on the sites you link to and although the names don't match some are clearly the same tracks as are on the album, for example, the download track labelled Jesus Song opens with the line "I Feel The Warmth" so is almost certainly track 12 from the album. The only one I can't find for download is track 7, When I See Your Face. The download Goodnight is left over but doesn't seem to fit.

However, main point is that they seem to have made more or less the whole album available as a free download - which is pretty impressive!

Great find Jeff.

Jeff said...

I actually found a copy of the album at a local independent record store today, so I picked it up without even hesitating. Score another one for artists who let people download their songs for free. :)

Joe said...

I am an old guy who enjoys TSO and now NLO. I hope the keep it up because it is refreshing to hear talent at this level play music that tells the truth about Christmas and the Birth of the Savior.