Northlane – ‘Alien’

By Dave Stewart

After a heavy band releases a string of successful albums, most people would expect that band to start treading a slightly more accessible path. Not necessarily changing the style of their music, but writing songs that would allow their music to be played in new places, streamed on new platforms and, ultimately, grow their fan base. Some bands, though, get to that point in their career and take a violent swerve down the path less trodden – a path that sees them release an album filled with material that is unexpected and often unpredictable. The latter is exactly what Aussie giants Northlane have done with ‘Alien’, and the end result is remarkable.

Northlane have developed a signature sound over the years, weaving tales of space and futuristic visions with calculated djenty rhythms and classic metalcore power and melody. The new record sees them take all that and blend it with a whole host of other influences, ushering in nu-metal vibes and electronic soundscapes. The overall theme of the record puts their futuristic storytelling on the back burner though, instead featuring very personal lyrics that directly focus on vocalist Marcus Bridge’s troubled upbringing.

‘Talking Heads’ is one of the most important tracks on this record, and acted as the catalyst for Marcus’ emotional floodgates to open. The track is one of their most aggressive and unrelenting in recent years, crammed full of low tuned groove and vicious vocals that painfully depict the agony in the lyrics.

Speaking about ‘Talking Heads’, Marcus explained; “We started working on this song pretty early in the process and I think writing it actually started to erase a lot of that insecurity, helping me open up a lot more for the rest of Alien. I think it’s important to know that there are a lot of people who feel the same way. I hope with this song and the issues talked about on rest of the album, that people will start to feel comfortable opening up about their past, turning it from a weakness to a strength in the process.”

The entirety of ‘Alien’ has that strength bursting out of every single track. Opener ‘Details Matter’ is a dirty and groovy riot, marrying the intense low tones of guitarists Jon Deiley and Josh Smith with an addictive pace and nu-metal laced hooks. ‘Jinn’ is a throwback of sorts, utilizing the kind of manic, stunning riffing that first brought them attention along with the enormous, soaring choruses that they’ve come to be known for over the years. ‘Paradigm’ is an up-tempo whirlwind, with screams of “I’m here with you” echoing out over walls of chords and monstrous chugs.

The punches fly in from a variety of different angles at unsuspecting times, which makes for both a refreshing and exciting listen. The electronic fuelled ‘4D’ is an expertly delivered fusion of genres, melding huge synth-driven choruses and a classic pop structure with well placed menacing tones and a completely unexpected breakdown. Just after the middle of the record is ‘Eclipse’ – a track that has a Rammstein-like feel to it, with a constant pounding bass drum providing an industrial edge as the riffs pound your brain to a pulp. Closing track ‘Sleepless’ is the true gem of this record, though. Easily their most emotional cut, it uses delicate instrumentation and soft vocals to gradually build towards an enormous, poignant crescendo that sees Bridge put on his best vocal display to date.

There’s an emotional intensity that Bridge brings to Northlane that has never been more prominent than it is on ‘Alien’. The personal and introspective themes of this record hit even harder when blended with his incredible range and feel, translating his pain into something that is catchy, memorable, and most importantly, inspiring. So many of us struggle on a daily basis and bury it out of fear of judgement or burdening others. It’s more important now than it ever has been to reach out and not suffer in silence – this record is Northlane reaching out their hand and letting you know that you aren’t alone.

This record shows a band whose members are completely in tune with one another. The record is packed with so much variety but still manages to sound complete and connected. The heavy bits are all punishing, the calm parts are even more tranquil, the choruses soar to heights they’ve never been to before – Northlane have oiled all of their machinery and are operating at their absolute best. If you already love Northlane, this record is sure to make that love even deeper. A masterful, stunning, and important record in their ever impressive career.

DAVE STEWART

Three more album reviews for you

Knocked Loose - A Different Shade Of Blue

Noah Gundersen - 'Lover'

LIVE: 2000Trees Festival 2019 - Saturday