Primitive Origins: Northern Haze – ‘Northern Haze’

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

No biggie, just the band band photo of all time.
No biggie, just the band band photo of all time.

Pioneering Inuit arctic hard rock from an isolated village in the mid-’80s sounds like the perfect subject for this column, and, look what we have here: Nunavut’s Northern Haze put out this absolutely killer 24-minute LP in 1985 through CBC Northern Service, and it was the first indigenous-language rock album released in North America. The Inuit group, who are from Igloolik (current population: 2000), aren’t exactly a household name, but did manage to tour through isolated northern communities and had established quite a name for themselves regionally.

The greatest thing about Northern Haze’s self-titled album, however, isn’t just the novelty or interesting historical factor: it’s that it rocks. These guys knew how to lay down a groove in ’85, and they roll with that all over this album, which flirts with quirky hard rock and heavy proto-stoner metal.

If you’re just going to listen to one song, the highlight track is “Anivunga,” a song so good it makes it clear that the reason these guys aren’t spoken of in hushed tones when early Canadian hard rock is discussed is not because of a lack of songwriting skills, it’s because of geography.

Elsewhere throughout this cool and fully enjoyable album—which stands the test of time very well—the band demonstrates some excellent proto-stoner sensibilities with both driving rock and a more tripped-out and repetitive sound, which is also where their regional influences shine through, creating a sound that—to this day—is uniquely their own.

Of all the bands we’ve profiled so far in Primitive Origins, Northern Haze is the one I listen to the most frequently, the band surpassing neat-archival status and entering rockin’-playlist status with ease on this great album.

Northern Haze’s Northern Haze – The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: Nope; this holds up fantastically with no help needed whatsoever.

Heaviness factor: Leaning more towards early hard rock than proto-metal, and lacking the sheer sonic boom of some of our other Primitive Origins inductees, Northern Haze still have enough of a heavy bottom end to be firmly on the hard rock spectrum.

Obscura Triviuma: The band was the subject of a 2011 documentary, Northern Haze: Living the Dream.

Other albums: The 2012 compilation Sinnaktuq on Supreme Echo compiles most of the self-titled album with one song recorded in 2002 and three from 2010.

Related bands: None, but, good news: The Metal Archives lists Northern Haze as active.

Alright, fine, if you must: I’m sure a joint or two would pair just fine with some of this band’s, quite frankly, proto-stoner tendencies.