For as gimmicky as the general gist of Rise Of The Northstar sounds, the French hardcore quintet whose primary influences stem from manga and other facets of Japanese pop culture, they’ve been able to carve out a decent niche for themselves in a very straight-laced hardcore scene. Then again, it’s not as if much of that influence has seeped into their sound, and regardless of how much aesthetic colour they’ve got, they’ve historically occupied the same base hardcore platform as so many of their more po-faced cousins. At least The Legacy Of Shi looks slightly more promising, ballasted by Gojira’s Joe Duplantier on production and what seems to be a greater embrace of the samurai imagery for potentially something more distinct.

Really though, very little has changed – Rise Of The Northstar’s mythology isn’t isn’t exactly dived into any deeper, and the tonal unevenness that this album displays at points can be fairly stark. Despite all of that though, this is probably a more enjoyable album than the band have previously produced, simply thanks to doubling down on that hardcore swagger and bravado in gloriously over-the-top fashion. That’s primarily thanks to Vithia as a frontman, adopting the personal of a typical hardcore bruiser, but between factors like the tight concise rapping in French that ends Teenage Rage and the real charm that comes through in the slight corruption of the lyrics with his natural accent, it could be borderline parody at points, and it’s all the stronger for it. Indeed, it gives the writing an almost cartoonish vibe, and while tracks like Here Comes The Boom and This Is Crossover can feel a bit devoid of content because of it, when it’s paired with a more cogent narrative and embrace of Japanese reference points like on Kozo, which ends with a verbal battle between Vithia’s character of the samurai and the demon that’s possessed him, it’s unquestionably a peak in Rise Of The Northstar’s approach that works incredibly well.

Even if the instrumentation is rarely more than fat-necked hardcore grooves and hip-hop posturing (and when it does deviate, like on the big glam-metal solo of Step By Step, it’s seldom great), it’s yet another case of Rise Of The Northstar throwing themselves into their craft and having fun with what they do. There’s a phenomenal sense of bounce and crunch that runs through the likes of Nekketsu and All For One, not exactly breaking the mould in any way but played with such bloody-mindedness that it’s remarkably easy to become swept up in. It’s the hip-hop influence that really gives The Legacy Of Shi some great kinetic energy though; Vithia is by no means a great technical rapper for the most part, but there’s such a cartoonishness to his flows on Cold Truth and Furyo’s Day that makes it so obvious that he’s fully aware of that, and yet he owns it anyway. It’s an album reliant on a big personality to balance out a lack of real innovation, and Rise Of The Northstar deliver that in spades.

It makes for an album that’s pretty difficult to criticise too harshly, all things considered. There are glaring flaws all over the place, but Rise Of The Northstar’s enormous presence vastly overshadows them to the point where this is a far more enjoyable listen than it would be otherwise. It’s perhaps not album of the year material or anything, but for another dose of heavy hardcore with enough of an identifiable slant to stand out from the pack, The Legacy Of Shi is more than worthy of some attention.

7/10

For fans of: Madball, Stray From The Path, TRC
Words by Luke Nuttall

‘The Legacy Of Shi’ by Rise Of The Northstar is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.

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