TASSI | 水树 (CHN) – Northland III, 2022 🇬🇧
A year after the European release of the compilation album called Northland I·II, the mastermind behind TASSI has gone all-out with the third part of the trilogy with a record that clocks above the sixty-minute mark. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as that was the approximate length of the first two releases. Still, Dryad manages to put into it a great dose of both effort and emotion, which are key to understanding the concept that lies behind TASSI. Although we have heard countless times the history of romantic search that it tells, the magic and dreaminess that this album perspires turn it into a fascinating project.
To achieve this, TASSI uses a wide range of resources, in which acoustic guitars, electronic layers, synthesizers, and clean vocals have a role as important as the distorted guitars and the black metal-esque shrieks. In fact, classifying this record as merely black metal would do a disservice to the music, and the same happens if we try to tag it as post-rock, post-metal, or any other similar genre. The stylistic diversity that was present in Northland I and II has been amplified in this third installment, to the point that it can be now considered one of the band’s hallmarks. Because of its holistic approach, it is no easy task to choose a single song that represents this idea; however, I would personally highlight the sixth track, «Merkabah«, as the one that best represents the wide diversity that can be found in this record.
In the same way that the music has gained in variety, production has remarkably improved, with well-adjusted sound levels that allow the different instruments (acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, and a lot more) to shine on their own. In the first two albums, especially in the case of Northland I, this was one of its weaker aspects, and it’s noteworthy how Dryad has been able to address it in such a discerning way. I would particularly highlight the job carried out on electric guitars, which adapt themselves perfectly to the mood of each song and are able to seamlessly transition between smooth strumming, to 2010s post-rock imbued melodic lines, to the atmospheric black metal’s characteristic heavy distortion. I already talked about this mix of musical styles that is akin to Asiatic black metal in Northland I·II‘s review, and it is probably one of the key elements that make TASSI‘s music so special.
In addition to all of this, this qualitative step-up has also resulted in more elegant compositions, which are also less dispersed than those found in Northland I·II. The songs in Northland III feel more focused, and, therefore, are easier to follow, something that allows the listener to be carried away by the ethereal melodies that the album offers. Lastly, it is important to note the huge amount of sound effects that come into play all along the record, which, as happened in the previous efforts, amplifies the reverie feeling that TASSI tries to achieve with its music.
Northland III is an album that feels complete, with a clearer focus than the first two parts, and shows that Dryad has taken defined steps towards the direction he wants for his music. When listening to this new release, it becomes evident that he has hit the sweet spot, and this third installment of Northland trilogy is probably his best album to date. Is it the closing of the trilogy? Will there be a sequel, or maybe a new saga born from the experience gained during these last years? Whichever way it is, the future looks promising for TASSI, and one can only hope that it points to the direction where black metal and its subgenres are headed in the next years.