LIVE: Northlane / ERRA @ Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

By Mark Johnson

In Australia, the first day of December signals the beginning of summer. Lovely warm weather and regular trips to the beach. So it’s a surprise to see Aussie-natives Northlane here in the UK, where we’re more used to darkness setting in early and plummeting temperatures.

The band are no strangers to surprises. Fourth album ‘Mesmer’, released back in March, appeared with no prior warning or announcements, sending their fan-base into a frenzy. Now that the the record has had time to breathe, they arrive in the UK ready to air the its finer moments.

To combat the bitterly cold temperature outside, ERRA take to the stage, and it doesn’t take long for things to start hotting up inside Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms. Alabama-based ERRA have built a passionate and loyal fan-base in the UK and those gathered in the room tonight greet the band with plenty of energy, whipping the floor into a mosh pit as soon as guitarists Jesse Cash and Sean Price strike their first notes. And the acclaim is well deserved – Cash and Price trade complex, interesting guitar parts that are heavy and intricate, and beneath then the drums maintain ferocious rhythms that add more fuel to the crowd’s fire.

Vocalist J.T. Cavey is a commanding front-man. His presence engulfs the stage as he confidently parades back and forth, impressing with his deep, resonant screams that carry much more impact live than on record. Cash’s clean vocals are crisp and clear, adding a well-balanced melodic edge to each track, rounding off a performance that deserves the huge reception it gets from the audience.

With the crowd nicely warmed, Northlane emerge on stage and continue to stoke the crowd’s enthusiasm, charging into ‘Colourwave’ from latest album ‘Mesmer’, which is met with an energetic mosh pit. As expected from a new album tour, tracks from ‘Mesmer’ dominate the set, the band choosing to play two-thirds of the album, amongst favourites from ‘Singularity’ and ‘Node’, as well as ‘Dispossession’ from the band’s debut ‘Discoveries’, to the delight of long-serving fans.

The mix in the Rescue Rooms is perfectly balanced, allowing devastating heaviness to spill from the speakers during the band’s many, well-crafted breakdowns, yet in the softer moments, the intricacies of the guitars and subtle ghost notes of the snare-drum permeate the atmosphere. If there can be one criticism of Northlane’s recent albums it’s the lack of dynamism – they’re experts at locking into a fantastic groove, but after a while this becomes one-dimensional and predictable. Yet here in a live environment, the wonderfully rich layers make tracks like ‘Citizen’ and ‘Solar’ come alive in new ways.

Bassist Alex Milovic helps add to the rich texture, his bass tone warm yet punishing, and as Milovic spins and twists on stage, his presence lifts the band’s performance visually as well. With two albums under his belt, vocalist Marcus Bridge has cemented his position and his live performances continue to go from strength to strength. His screams, harsh and impactful, transition seamlessly into flawlessly executed clean melodies and his ability to perform the older material as effortlessly as his own makes Bridge a natural, worthy front-man for the band.

These excellent individual performances are great to witness, but it’s the way everything pulls together that makes Northlane such an impressive live act. Each instrument combines with machine-like precision, locking into infectious grooves that last just long enough to command your limbs with movement before throwing you off with well-timed offbeats, and brutally pummelling you with breakdowns. The release of ‘Mesmer’ this year may have been a surprise, but at this stage in the band’s history, their ability to deliver a sublime performance is far from it.