With bated breath we’ve been ready for the debut album from Swedish alternative rock/metal outfit Noija. The band consisting of Nick Serlstedt (vocals), Daniel Lundgren (drums), Max Mauritsson (bass) and Ludvig Ottosson (guitar) is a new project for three former members of Brighthaven.
There seems to be nothing holding Noija back, as they’ve leaped into our curious awarenesses with a stream of impressive singles (“Unknown”, “A Touch From The Sun”, “Can’t Slow Down”). Our collective responses of “This is good. MORE PLEASE” eagerness has been gratefully responded to, as we get the pleasure of experiencing Noija’s debut album Colorblind on Friday (20th October), just over a month from when we heard their first single.
The band have been working behind the scenes over the last year, and there is an unmistakable fire fueling Noija. Their songs reflect this fire, as well as breaking free of the identity confines that have been placed upon them. Noija as the ‘phoenix from the ashes’ of Brighthaven truly feels like a new start, and doing so in authenticity.
“Unknown” as the first single, and also as the first track of the eleven, takes us into isolation along with Nick as he is is left feeling nothing, yet also wanting more. The unmistakably Swedish tinged English vocals is endearing as we are drawn on an addictive riff story that unfolds in telling where he’s been and where he wants to go.
“I’m a mess
I’m a beautiful mess
Been a fellow friend with my demons for so long
Worn a mask, it doesn’t fit at all
I made myself believe that I’m here for something”
Most powerfully in “Unknown” is the fight expressed between moving forward into bliss with purpose, or remaining as he is, alone and stuck but in what is known. With ‘hell as home’, ‘speaking for other tongues’, and longing for hell when bliss reveals itself, there’s a feeling of being on the edge of something amazing and deciding if to throw oneself off the cliff into the unknown, or staying (now uncomfortably) where they are.
The capabilities of Noija moving through moments of spacious tenderness and crashing up against raw fire meant that this debut taste of the band had us all undeniably waiting for more.
“Find The Sound” follows, and is another step forward into the concept of true self-expression. This track gives more of an electronic sound, while remaining powerful. It’s a tender curiosity about existing in a falsely expressed existence (social media coming to mind) which is a ‘game’ we’re all playing together.
But, as in “Unknown”, it seems like playing along is becoming uncomfortable and overwhelming; with greater desperation to find the truth of who we are (‘to find our sound’) underneath the lies.
“The view’s so open and clear
We gaze ourself blind in a haze
It’s all a lie
That we deny
Forget everyting, I’m not anything”
The breakdown section as well as Nick’s clear expression of fury against this system we’re a part of is impressive. The urging to bravely find ourselves and ‘run free to find our remedy’ along with the layered vocals and piano openness as the track ends feels like an exciting evolution beyond being stuck in cowardly compliance.
The vibe of excitedly chasing dreams and shrugging off expectations is captured in the next track (“Can’t Slow Down”). Any dreaming heart will find themselves at home here; the breathless anticipation of a light filled future that they lose time fantasizing about. Noija seem to be asking dreamers to go hard at it, instead of allowing themselves to be pushed into compliance with something more cold. With less heart.
“We’re all dying to prove what our lives on this earth are worth”
The bridge with its ribbons of harmony wafting by, tender lightness of sound, and fear busting vocal empathy is heart wrenching to the extreme, and I could listen to that section on repeat times infinity.
In late night self-doubt entanglements, Noija are there too, telling us to use our doubts and fears as fuel to carry on. I can’t help but think/feel that we’re seeing the raw roots of Noija here, as they too break through doubts and pressures to bring this to life. It’s moving and inspiring (I can’t be the only one that tears up at “I know that I’ll prevail. I’ll PREEEEVAAAAILLLLL!”).
In “A Touch From The Sun”, Noija tumble out of their tree of daydreams and fantasy, taking solid action toward bringing what they want into reality. This is yet another goosebump inspiring track of creating something amazing, shaking off the old, and feeling the metaphorical heat and rain as it happens. Unconditionally.
“I’ll come down
I’ll be unbound
I’ll run to leave the past behind
The here & now is real
A touch from the sun, now I feel”
This forward-facing determination as the old safety of the tree has crumbled away is heart soaring, as we watch Noija tell their story of spreading their wings into something great. The rawness of the bridge screams “I’m here and I’m ready for whatever is coming”. It’s yet another moving track, expressed in bravery.
We seem to step out of ambition into something more personal with “Follow”. The track seems to capture the experience of being seen in all of their flaws and wildness and pain. It could be understood as a love song, where one unconditionally sees the goodness in another despite any chaos that arises. Even in lightness and semi-ambiguous lyrics, Noija bring raw expression and spark emotion with their sound.
“My heart in your hand
Hold on don’t slip
A book unwritten, we share the ink
But my mess left no empty space
Black blood in my veins”
I fell in love with “Just Hold Your Breath” (and yes, I cried). We’re privy to a very human confession as it falls to the floor in front of us; broken and negative. Orchestral and building sound waits and watches as strength is gained, with rawness being a catalyst for this flood of change. The inverse expressions champion those that were broken; pulling them off the floor, dusting them off, and fighting for more than their defeat. Despite the lyrical simplicity, “Just Hold Your Breath” is something so beautiful.
“I’m not fooling anyone, it’s just myself
I’m not meaningless”
The following track, “Hold Your Heart”, feels like a snapshot of long distance love. Without really noticing, we’ve fallen into a digital-edged love song, and it still works well, despite lacking the determined fire we’ve felt and heard. It’s a heartfelt expression of a bond and fateful commitment to each other. He’s asking her to not give up, and sharing that he won’t either.
“Red hair like fire down your shoulders
Fit like a puzzle, we’re still loners
Two lost souls weigh down so low
This love we have could only grow”
We are back into ambition territory with “Here At Last”, albeit in a lighter way than earlier. Noija are affirming the act of ‘burning down’ the past pain in order to move forward into something greater, as well as speaking on behalf of themselves and no one else. The fire of ambition seeming like an uncomfortable lump that will remain until it is brought to life.
“I’m never gonna stop
No I wont give this up
To the pain that we felt so long
We can soon wave it goodbye”
The guitars at 2:55 had me crave some heaviness here to go along with that fire, but instead “Here At Last” feels like a calm place of acknowledgement of the fact that their dreams won’t be dying along with them.
In “Wallflower”, I feel that we could be transported back up in the tree of “A Touch From The Sun”; catching our breath in safety instead of fighting the overwhelming instability that comes with moving forward.
“His hand on my head, the steel to my neck
The sun has fled
and the bitter cold grabs hold”
Where is the happy medium between forward determination and safety? It seems that safety is nowhere to be found in this scenario, leaving Noija with a metaphorical gun to their heads just wishing and hoping that they survive this experience where they’re drowning in the deep end. Weighty metaphors reflect the gravity of the instability.
The core-rattling drums are a stand-out in “Wallflower”, capturing the “am I going to make it through this?” vibe. It’s a meaningful light being shone upon the fact that chasing your dreams is no picnic.
Next, a piano focused introspective, “Pictures” runs like a stream of thought; letting jagged pieces of self-understanding come together. Pressure and fear accent this track, as strings and guitar join forces. Ultimately it feels like a noise-shattering affirmation, where “I guess this is who I am” silences the layers of sound and input, with just quiet resolution remaining.
At the peak that comes after encouraging yourself to take a risk, not giving up on your dreams, and going for them even though it’s challenging, comes “Wanderer”. Simply stated: Everything you’ve created could be lost in an instant.
This last track of Colorblind takes us through the uncomfortable experience of having that loss happen. The breathless expression of dreams that won’t come to light and the agony that comes with trying to let go, even though it’s the last thing you want. Heavy guitar deliciousness shows up here, blended with lighter vibed exploration of what happened.
“I’ve always been told that there’s a light
By the end of the tunnel
But I won’t be able to witness it’s shining glow”
The track is a farewell of what could have been and an acknowledgement of having to exist in an unknown space for awhile. This is so beautifully expressed by layered vocals and hard-to-grasp sounds at the bridge (“What’s the point of building myself up / When I know that I’m coming closer to the end”). With the sudden ending, we too are left in the dark, breathless over what we’ve just been through, both with the track and with the album we’ve experienced.
Noija leapt into Colorblind with ambition and revealed in honesty all of the questions and doubts involved with bringing their dreams to life. And doing so even though it seems risky, goes against ‘supposed to’s, or no longer fits in with the game playing seen outwardly in others’ lives.
In Colorblind Noija bring a vibe of dedication toward the calls of the heart, regardless of obstacles, even if the obstacles only exist within themselves. They would rather die than allow their unique sounds and colours be expressed with purpose.
They’ve shared their message with a sound that is polished yet never seeming overdone, forced or that it’s showing off, and with words that reflect an authentic voice without being lost in layers or prettiness.
I loved exploring these different facets Noija have shared of following the truth that keeps you awake and stirs in your chest, and I could see the album sparking curiosity toward the colours that each of us hold unexpressed.
Beautiful, genuine, moving and inspirational collection of songs. Each capturing Noija's signature sound as well as being unique.