The evolution of Northlane’s career this last decade is well-documented. A change in style when vocalist Marcus Bridge joined in 2014, allowed the band stretch their metalcore boundaries and influences. It was at that point, the world begun to take notice that this wasn’t a standard Australian band hanging off Parkway Drive’s coattails.
Node and Mesmer showed Bridge’s vocal capabilities, which are arguably unmatched in Australian music, as the band were able to dabble in multiple sounds and textures. The albums were unequivocally successes and Northlane are knocking on the door of the big leagues. So how do you take that next step? Northlane have answered with Alien.
This album is not about Area 51 or little green men from Mars. It’s a brutally honest retelling of Bridge’s childhood traumas and that is what, unfortunately perhaps, makes this album so compelling.
Bridge doesn’t hold back, recounting the abusive relationships and the impact on not only his life but also his sister’s. It is as emotional as it is raw. It is schizophrenic while also beautifully flowing. It’s everything a young impressionable mind would struggle to process in extreme circumstances.
The lyrics drive the music, bringing everything that has been so unique about Northlane to the table. There is prog and djent elements combined with soulful electronic melodies. The opening track Details Matters displays Bridges ability to drive, from the pit of his stomach, a vehement spitting vitriol of defiance. The heavy tuned guitars complimenting exactly what is being said.
In contrast, closer Sleepless brings Bridges beautifully smooth vocals over what is essentially an EDM track before elevating into an emotionally ethereal world. The key is, it all fits perfectly. This isn’t an album of three to four songs and fillers. This is an album that has to be digested as a whole otherwise you doing yourself a disservice.
By now you would’ve all heard the singles Bloodline and Talking Heads and would’ve have begun to form your opinion. That’s just a snippet of the roller coaster that is Alien.
Jinn for example has Bridges display a choirboy vocal, over a electric riff of huge proportions, that implores you turn the volume all the way up as electronic elements weave throughout the song.
The track Paradigm is Northlane’s answer to a brutal punk djent sonic overload, which quite frankly, got me in the feels the way a song should.
Rift meanwhile is a much more mellow song, as the band works in the studio with sounds and effects coming to the fore. All this contrast though works when you have a common focus.
This album is the sound of band who have got it absolutely right. A band with trust in each other. Bridge’s lyrics and raw emotions are not the faint hearted and drive the albums musical output. Jon Deiley and Co capture the intensity of the lyrics creating alien sounds and breaking boundaries.
While the album may be about alienation, the band themselves have meshed perfectly, creating a musical masterpiece. Everything is crafted with precision and linked. It’s the sound of a genre evolving.
This album will take Northlane to the top of the Australian metal tree. It will also take them into the big leagues overseas. Northlane have taken their pain, regrouped, come back and changed the game for everyone. Album of the year thus far.
Album Review By Iain McCallum