Released on: 2021-11-12
"With NorthTale, I wanted to start the band that I wasn't able to when I was 16 years-old."
So says Brazilian-American guitarist Bill Hudson, who has made a name for himself over the past 15 years working with artists including Doro, Jon Oliva's Pain, U.D.O., Circle II Circle, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and David Vincent's I Am Morbid. In spite of these achievements, it was in 2017 that Hudson was finally able to realize his dream by launching his own band, NorthTale, and releasing the debut album Welcome To Paradise two years later. All was not well in paradise, however, and the industry standard "creative differences" between Hudson and vocalist Christian Eriksson (ex-Twilight Force) brought things to a grinding halt. Rather than give up Hudson chose to regroup and treat the NorthTale debut as a demo for greater things to come in the form of a new album, Eternal Flame.
It is, without question, the true beginning of NorthTale's story
At its core, NorthTale is Hudson's solo project in the same way guitar legend Jeff Waters works under the Annihilator name, but the ultimate goal was to turn it into a real band. Heavily influenced by early Stratovarius, André Matos-era Angra, and Keeper-era Helloween, NorthTale draws heavily from their respective catalogues, all of which can be heard with scorching clarity on the new album.
"When I started touring as a professional musician in 2006, nobody cared about this genre," says Hudson. "The only power metal that was around was DragonForce and the band that I was in at the time, Cellador. I've seen so many trends in metal come and go, and now I see all these bands trying to sound like an '80s or '90s throwback. I started thinking that maybe now is the time to try and do this music again, because if nothing else it will reach people like me who are old now (laughs) and remember that time fondly."
It's fair to say that everything Hudson has done over the course of his career has led to this point. He readily admits the artists he has worked with have had an influence on him one way or another, largely due to the fact he had to learn how to play their songs. And in some cases it wasn't even a matter of style. For example, Eternal Flame features heavy orchestration fused with the band's power metal sound, which was inspired by Hudson's experience rehearsing with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Hudson: "When I was working with other artists I had to learn those songs, so I saw how thing were done; not only my parts but everybody else's parts as well. A lot of that found its was into NorthTale's music, for sure. The power metal that inspired me isn't riff-heavy music; the focus is often on the vocals or the keyboards, so I can attribute NorthTale's heavy sound to working with death metal bands like I Am Morbid. The heavy riffs, the seven-string guitar; NorthTale is heavier than traditional power metal, definitely."
NorthTale is also heavily influenced by the rich musical culture of Hudson's Brazilian homeland, something that is most apparent on the song "Land Of Mystic Rites", which recalls Angra's legendary song "Carolina IV".
"The concept of taking inspiration from that music did come from Angra," says Hudson, "but the way I wrote it came more from more from my own influences. I can see how people will think it's inspired by them if they're not familiar with traditional Brazilian music."
Adding to NorthTale's sound embracing Hudson's Brazilian roots is the addition of vocalist Guilherme Hirose, who hails from Hudson's home town of São Paulo and came on board more by fate than design. After parting ways with Eriksson, Hudson began the process of auditioning singers, opting to try and find a relative unknown rather than using one of the big names in metal on his speed dial. He eventually settled on another singer from Sweden, but as fate would have it one final audition, from Hirose, changed NorthTale's course completely.
"Guilherme sent me a personal message on Facebook in Portuguese saying that he wanted to send me some material," Hudson reveals. "I'm from Brazil and I'm proud of that, but I know that it's pain in the ass to get people from Brazil to America, so I wasn't too down with it. I didn't need another geographical problem, because we're already spread out between here and Sweden, and I told him that. I told him 'Thanks but no thanks...' basically, but he wrote back asking me to give him a chance. And the stuff he told me was the exact same stuff that I told Cellador back in the day when I wanted to move to America. I decided to give him a chance and told him to send me his stuff, and he blew my fucking mind."
"When I write these songs I have a very specific type of voice in mind, and the only person that was able to nail it up to that point was Christian. But, when this kid sent me the first demo I couldn't believe it. I sent him three more songs and he blew my mind with all of them. He wasn't necessarily better than the other guys that auditioned for NorthTale, but he was the right fit for what I wanted."
Recording sessions for Eternal Flame were surprisingly smooth considering Hudson, his bandmates and producer Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Unisonic) were separated geographically thanks to the global pandemic. Impressed by Ward's body of work, Hudson felt he was perfect for the job and he was not disappointed. When the original plan to record in Hudson's Florida home base fell through, Ward introduced the idea of recording the album using groundbreaking Audio Movers software, which allowed them to stream audio note-for-note in real time. Ward oversaw the entire production from his studio in Germany and, according to Hudson, was involved with every note through the entire process.
"My next goal is to somehow get us all to the same studio," says Hudson, "but short of that, this was the best thing that could have happened."
The icing on the cake, other than a killer cover of Iron Maiden's "Judas Be My Guide", is the unexpected guest vocal performance from Helloween / Gamma Ray icon Kai Hansen on "Future Calls". As an added bonus, Hansen's son shreds his way through the guitar solo.
"I tried to get Kai to produce the first NorthTale album," Hudson reveals, "but he didn't have the time. I told him I didn't care what he did on Eternal Flame - sing, play a solo - as long as I can say 'Featuring Kai Hansen...' (laughs). He suggested singing something and having his son play a guitar solo so they would both be on the same song. I didn't even know he has a son that plays guitar, and Tim did a great job."
Reflecting on how far he has come with NorthTale, from being a dream to its troubled beginnings, Hudson makes no secret of how pleased he is with the final result of Eternal Flame.
"I absolutely love the album, and I've probably listened to it more times now that I've ever listened to the first NorthTale album. When Welcome To Paradise came out I was super excited about it, and back then I would have said it's a perfect album. Now I can barely stand to listen to it. Eternal Flame couldn't be better. It's perfect to my ears.... at least until we make the next album."
|1||- Only Human|
|2||- Wings Of Salvation|
|3||- Future Calls|
|4||- The Land Of Mystic Rites|
|5||- Midnight Bells|
|6||- Eternal Flame|
|7||- In The Name Of God|
|8||- Ride The Storm|
|9||- King Of Your Illusion|
|10||- Judas Be My Guide|
|11||- Nature's Revenge|
|12||- Ivy (Outro)|