ALBUM REVIEW: Northlane – Alien
At this point in time if you want to find high quality metalcore music you can turn your attention to the southern hemisphere, or more directly Australia. Parkway Drive are currently headlining festivals and arenas around the world, The Amity Affliction are still pulling up trees in a similar fashion (despite releasing the most critically berated album of their career) and now Northlane are looking to step up to the plate with their long awaited 5th studio effort, ‘Alien’.
In 2019 Northlane are celebrating their 10th anniversary as a band and are doing so with arguably their most ambitious effort to date. Alien is the group’s fifth full length studio album, and their third in their current incarnation with vocalist Marcus Bridges, guitarists Jon Deiley and Josh Smith, drummer Nic Pettersen and bassist Brendan Padjasek. Now with their current lineup bedded in and firing on all cylinders, the band are ready to take their metalcore sound to a whole new level.
The album opens with Details Matter and sets about doing exactly what Northlane do best. The low end, bouncing guitar riffs link up expertly with the electronic elements and thunderous rhythmic section to create the band’s signature sound. From the outset there is a marked increase in the aggression that the music is delivered with, and it’s most welcome. So often nowadays modern metal music of this ilk comes across as a little toothless and this album certainly bucks that trend from the start.
The vocal delivery from Bridge is possibly the greatest improvement from the band’s previous releases to now. The parked, rapid vocal patterns on the opener sound akin to the venom and bile that Austin’s Carlisle was spitting on Of Mice And Men’s classic metalcore release The Flood, and fits the new sound of Northlane perfectly.
Jinn presents the first real taste of clean vocals on the album and gives Bridge a chance to show the other side to his voice. It also proves that, despite this new, sharpened edge to their sound, the band still know their way around a sweet melody and they still have a penchant for writing memorable choruses that ingrain themselves in the listener’s subconscious.
Talking Heads sees the band embracing their nu-metal influences with a devastatingly heavy, deep guitar riff from Smith and Deiley that threatens to blow car doors off when it comes through the speakers. The composition and vocal delivery in the verse seems as though it comes straight from the Korn playbook, not unlike something that the nu-metal overlords would have cooked up in their Untouchables era. The fact that the band can take their own sound and spice it up with influences such as these is a testament to the way that they have grown as songwriters, and shows the promise that they have going forward when it comes to expanding their own musical horizons.
Rift is a welcome change of pace and breaks up the heavy onslaught brilliantly. The complex drum beat coupled with the spacey, swirling atmospherics intertwine with the beautiful singing from Bridge, who embraces his inner Chester Bennington (RIP). The same can be said for the following track Sleepless, which delves even further into the electronic sound, with a computerised drum loop and a colossal wall of synths that create a scale the likes of which the band have never created before.
Alien is not just a natural progression for a band that are gathering confidence with every release, it is also the band finally discovering their voice after a long and arduous journey. Northlane are a band that have always threatened greatness and have come incredibly close to creating it on many different occasions, with this release it feels as though they have finally found their formula and have created their greatest work to date.
This is a serious contender for album of the year.
Standout Tracks: Details Matter, Talking Heads, Rift, Sleepless
For Fans Of: Of Mice & Men, Korn, The Amity Affliction
Written by: Richard Webb