WORDS: SEAN HUBBARD
Northlane moved away from the sci-fi themes of previous releases on new album ‘Alien’ – despite the confusing title, this album is actually about frontman Marcus Bridge’s feelings of childhood trauma and the alienation that he felt during that period. Despite all that the band felt it was important that ‘Alien’ also carried a message of positivity, with Marcus having said: “I hope to show people that despite your upbringing, you aren’t destined for that same path, you can change the story.”
Sonically ‘Alien’ is unmistakeably a Northlane record, however that is not to say that it is stale, as there is a clear evolution from 2017’s surprise ‘Mesmer.’ This time around the Australian metalcore band have adopted some styles from nu-metal, especially on ‘Bloodline,’ which begins with a Korn-esque drum introduction and Marcus’ vocals throughout the whole song are obviously inspired by Jonathan Davis. There is arguably a greater focus on clean vocals throughout the album, however this makes the screams more potent when they do arrive, and actually gives the listener an insight into the raw emotions that Marcus Bridge was feeling during his childhood and how they re-emerged during the creation of ‘Alien.’ Furthermore there has been criticism of Bridge’s harsh vocals before, however on this album they are stronger than ever before, and he has certainly fired back at those critics with an impressive vocal performance.
“a more experimental album than their previous release”
‘Eclipse’ is probably the standout track of the record, bringing an orchestral feeling with the dramatic drum and synth intro as well as pounding fast paced guitars and an excellent electronic theme pushing the song forward throughout. It is also the ‘heaviest’ song on the record, with more screamed vocals than any other track – answering any questions about whether Northlane had gone soft with style, this is certain to be a live favourite in the moshpit, especially the final slowed breakdown.
This transitions nicely into ‘Rift’ which is arguably the softest song on the album, with a prevalence of clean vocals and a much slower pace than its predecessor. It also evokes some comparisons with synth-wave due to the eclectic electronics use, this track would not have been out of place on the Blade Runner soundtrack at all, but surprisingly it still works as a Northlane song within the context of the album despite the polarisation of the previous song, and it retains their sense of individuality with the unmistakable Northlane guitars in the background – even if the synth is the primary focus.
“some of the most exciting music that the Australian band have ever made”
First single ‘Vultures’ is probably the most ‘classic’ Northlane song on the album, and certainly resembles ‘Mesmer’ more than it does ‘Rift,’ however this demonstrates the Aussie band’s versatility – this is absolutely a more experimental album than their previous release, and while some of it may sound strange to their fans it is still unmistakably Northlane, just in an evolution of their music.
The biggest let-down of the entire album is the fact that it appears the band can’t fully decide on an artistic direction, with the experimental tracks appearing to play second fiddle to the more traditional metalcore songs in terms of single releases, when in fact they are some of the most exciting music that the Australian band have ever made. Hopefully this marks a turning point in the future of Northlane and they explore this synth-wave path further.