Underrated Band Review: Normandie
Updated: Apr 10
By: Lauren Johns
I dare you to name a Nordic Metal band (Viking Metal). If you automatically think of the award-winning Swedish group called ‘Ghost’, I don’t blame you, they are pretty spectacular. I love their song ‘Mary on a Cross’. But—plot twist—that isn’t the band I’m referring to. Down we go, the rabbit hole.
Image taken from Music Blog: https://whenthehornblows.com/content/2021/2/19/band-of-the-week-152-normandie
The legendary trio, also known as Normandie, was formed in September 2013 in Orebro, Sweden. The band members are lead vocalist Phillip Strand, drummer Anton Franzon and guitarist Hakan Almbladh. The group originally consisted of six members: singers/screamers Philip Strand and Johan Lindström, guitarists Joel Felix and Håkan Almbladh, along with bassist Stefan Timmerholm and drummer Jesper Malmberg. After their first release (a 2013 E.P. named after them), two members Johan Lindström and Joel Felix left the group due to outlying pursuits, and Jesper Malmberg would follow in 2017.
Here’s another plot twist, this band became progressively less metal, but not in a bad, sell-out kind of way. Felix was the prized screamer of the group, so they felt like a change in sound was needed to move forward.
When their debut album ‘Inguz’ dropped in 2016, they signed with InVogue Records and the quartet began to embrace their new sound. Strand was singing on his own for the first time and he did exactly that; owned it, even if he probably felt like the blind leading the blind. His vocals seemed to shoot fire. Listening to ‘Inguz’ isn’t so different from wandering a minefield, anxiously waiting for something catastrophic to happen. The song “Believe” sounds like it would belong in some apocalyptic show trailer. I can picture Phillip running from some of those fungus-infested humans in ‘The Last of Us’. Another honorable mention is “The Storm'' with its electrifying guitar riff perfectly accompanying Strand’s thundering voice. The title of the album, ‘Inguz’ is a symbol from a Viking rune (ancient alphabet) meaning “a new life phase”. The band strived to take its listeners on a journey of self-enlightenment and empowerment (Cryptic Rock music blog).
In 2017, the group’s success skyrocketed when they were asked to join the Florida-based punk band Yellowcard on their farewell tour. The singer claims that this tour was the foundation for everything to come. He was right.
The first song I heard by Normandie was ‘(Don’t) Need You’, a pulse-racing song that comes in different flavors: an 80’s synth wave style---with a hilarious music video---or a fiery powerhouse rock. I favor the rock version because the guitars burst with vitality and seem to be screaming out a warning. The rock-heavy track is featured in their sophomore album, ‘White Flag’ released in 2018, and the revitalized version is included in their ‘White Flag Reimagined’ album released in 2019. Don’t skimp out on all the other songs though. The title track ‘White Flag’ is full of powerful imagery, “we are standing in a burning field of clovers” and the most beautifully pure vocal runs I’ve ever heard.
The song, ‘The Bell’, while slow and melancholic (far from their metal roots), is gorgeous and features some of their native tongues. I love the lyric, “I’m not gonna hesitate, I’m gonna bend and break, to see what I’m made of”.
Their discography seems to embody the word ‘rebirth’, a death that leads to something new and beautiful in its wake. This concept rings true with their latest album, ‘Dark and Beautiful Secrets’ (2021). If fans thought that the singer was being vulnerable by waving a ‘White Flag’, they had another thing coming.
In the 2021 release, Phillip sings all about his troubles with his religious upbringing and his loss of identity once he left the church. These tracks hit you like a punch to the gut---or heart or soul (check all of the above). They are bittersweet but with a razor-sharp edge, fully comparable to Bring Me The Horizon, Young Guns, and maybe very specific Shinedown songs.
The third track “Jericho” was originally based on a breakup, which the singer considered to be the lyrically easy route. It was later expanded to represent breaking away from his former self, setting his past ablaze, and kicking away the ashes.
“Holy Water” is a song that plays on all the hypocrisies of religion, that ‘holier than thou’ mindset. This song is a whirlwind experience, as it starts off bold and aggressive and then switches to a more subtle verse with staccato synth beats and grows in intensity until Phillip is channeling his inner Felix and screaming “this is not a reckoning, this is the end of a path”.
In a sense, the album represents the singer’s epiphany regarding his identity and his search for something else to believe in, a new religion.
As Phillip describes it, “It’s about breaking free from the path that was chosen for you, to start carving out a new one.” (NormandiePress).
Honorable song mentions include:
Ghost (Inguz), it’s a dazzling and empowering anthem about rejuvenation. The verses change as perspective changes: “broken, bruised and pitiful” transforms into “broken, bruised and beautiful.”
Babylon (Dark and Beautiful Secrets), the lyrics discuss losing a sense of reality, leaving us with one very important question about life, “are (we) following or falling out?”