‘New phone. Who dis?’ Yup. That is an absolutely ridiculous fad-of-the-week saying, much like ‘YOLO’ or ‘Litty’, but I’m sure it was somewhat if not THE initial reaction most had when first hearing the new music put out by the Aussie boys in Northlane. Much like not knowing which unsaved contact is sending you your first text on your newly acquired cellphone, hearing any of the new singles was almost like seeing that unknown number on your call display. They had seemingly taken a whole new path in developing their sound to its next stages of life, but then how fitting is it for the group’s fifth LP to be entitled, Alien. The group’s newly acquired stylistic change has taken on a new lifeform yet held on to elements that fans of ‘ol are still familiar with. It only makes sense that when discovering new worlds of concepts and subject matter, the overall sound it’s paired with would change as well. One should approach this newer version of Northlane as if they were discovering a new world, because I assure you there is so much to find and wonder in. The group did not approach this new direction haphazardly or without cause. The group had decided to go down a dark path rarely traversed before, and just like much of the content put forth by Marcus Bridge and the rest of the Northlane boys, everyone was going to feel a little alien in their new world.
In the most fitting of ways (whether intended or not) the initial track of Alien which is aptly named “Details Matter” begins with a sound that is almost reminiscent of an alien ship’s tractor beam. The sound literally sucks you in to the intense vortex and sends you reeling. Northlane insisted this album will be heavy and they deliver straight outta the gate. With guitars coming from Jon Deiley and Josh Smith that sound as if the two are attempting to pull on them so hard in an effort to rip them straight from their instruments, and vocalist Marcus Bridge screaming bloody murder you’re immediately entranced in a headbanging fury of new sounds. The verses mainly consist of electronica sounding elements and on oozing bassline, while the choruses retain both while adding crunching guitars to top it all off. The only so-called ‘clean vocals’ in the entire track come from the bridge where Marcus (Bridge) gravely speaks the same words of the chorus ‘You can’t make me disappear. You tried to break me, I’m still here’. A powerful statement regardless of context, and something I’m sure many listeners will chant to the rafters when they themselves are finding themselves oppressed by a force they too will overcome.
Ahh yes, “Bloodline”, the first song introduced along side the album announcement and the track that threw the core listening world for a loop. The track specifically referred to in my opening sentence of the intro to this review. As silly as those slang phrases are though, they truly do encompass all that Northlane went for with this song (and the album as a whole). Upon first hearing “Bloodline”, many were unsure what to think or expect next. This song was quite different from ANYTHING the band had released before. It followed a much more hard rock/nu-metalcore sound, and had strayed quite far from the progressive sounds the group were always known for in the past. But when one took the time to actually listen to what the group was going for; they had only actually added a twist to the fantastic formula they had used before. Beginning with a groovy bassline delivered by Brendon Padjasek, that flows throughout each verse and intoxicates the listener into a constant back and forth head bob, the song is not without its ballistic parts as well. The choruses are melodic and soaring, right up until the end when they flip the listener on their head with a scathing level of heavy guitar play. Dripping with emotion the song speaks to Marcus Bridge’s tumultuous life growing up in an abusive household fueled by fear and drug use, and yet Bridge made it out and come out on top. Regardless of anyone’s feelings of the songs sound, this is a strong and heartfelt subject matter which in some shape or form many could relate to. It is truly in this way that music becomes an outlet not only for the artist, but for the listener as well. And yes, the group showed us you only live once, and the song truly is lit.
Taken from Northlane’s upcoming album Alien, out August 2: https://unfd.lnk.to/A1ien ALIEN WORLD TOUR Tickets available from https://northlaneband.com JAPAN Thursday July 11 – Umeda Club Quattro, Osaka Friday July 12 – Nagoya Club Quattro, Nagoya Saturday July 13 – Shibuya Club Quattro, Tokyo NORTH AMERICA Wednesday August 14 – Slim’s, San
I can’t be the only one who will undoubtedly feel that “4D” sounds if it could have easily fit onto Linkin Park’s masterpiece debut album, Hybrid Theory (as long as Mike Shinoda sat out a round of rapping). And that isn’t to say that this in any shape or form sounds like a rip off, more a comment on how it’s incredible the influences that can be drawn from any and all artists regardless of genre or timeline (more than likely Northlane did not draw influence from Linkin Park, but my comment still holds true for what a listener can take away from a song). Starting out with a constant pluck of a singular bass string and backed by both phaser-esque electronic elements and drumline so sporadic from Nic Pettersen, I totally could have seen this placed directly after “Points of Authority” and ne’er been out of place. Once the guitars come in there is a soaring undertone of electronics that bring every other instrument that much more to life. The verses consist of that intensified bass note and Marcus Bridge delivering his vocals in a half sung-half yelling manner that too perfectly fits the overall sound being played behind him. ‘Someone just like me, took your world away from you’. Powerful words from Marcus during the chorus, and a quite apt way of thinking for any of us. Anyone can hurt someone else. Even the best of us aren’t perfect, and sadly all of us have the ability to tear the ground from under someone else’s feet. Even if we try our best not to. The song is rhythmic and harmonious, all while retaining a heavy emotion. This will assuredly be a favorite for many.
Bringing it back to that heavy that I know all too many of you crave we come to “Jinn”. Depending on whether you follow the Arabic, Romanic, or Anglo definition, Jinn can mean a varied amount of a type of being, but generally it is a spirt or demon. Now a Jinn is not considered to be exactly good or evil but can actually have traits of both sides of that coin. When listening to the track though it actually seems like the protagonist of this tale is battling with exactly that predicament. They are neither innately good or bad, and regardless of their desire to do good things, they find themselves stuck in their negative ways. Sonically the song defines this sentiment exactly. The verses are insanely heavy in a way that they almost sound vehemently angry or bad, and yet the choruses are soaring and airy in a way that seems to reflect the desire to be something better. The initial two choruses show Marcus experimenting a bit more with a softer touch to his clean vocals, while the final (or outro chorus if you will) shows him delivering in a more deliberate manner if almost to say ‘enough is enough. I WILL be better’. This song was surely a favorite of mine as it showed how multifaceted the group can truly be and had elements of Northlane across all they have ever released.
With Alien, Northlane have utilized everything they have to bring a newfound way in which they deliver their most heartfelt messages yet. Being so publicly vulnerable and open is never an easy thing to do, and one could only imagine much like the hardships that Marcus had faced to come up with any of the subject matter on Alien, he and the group will once again find themselves feeling like misunderstood beings when the album is initially released. The group promised the ‘heavy’ but one would imagine they meant with the lyrical content just as much as the music itself. When “Bloodline” was initially released, there were many comparisons to Korn and other nu-metal groups, and a sentiment that the group had lost their way and simply wanted to placate themselves amongst a more popular sound and fanbase. This could not be further from the truth. Yes, there will be many comparisons made (I myself made one), but the point is it should be left at that; a simple comparison of a sound that reminds you of something else. This is not an attempt at being a band that they are not. Northlane have always strived to reinvent themselves from album to album, without losing any of their roots, and they have honestly done that yet again with Alien. This album has all of the progressive elements from the past two albums, combined with some of the heaviness from pre-Marcus Northlane, and at the same time has brought a multitude of new elements to the table. This is undoubtedly their most honest and exposed release yet and the group should be commended for it. This album is phenomenal and will help so many others to feel a little less…alien.