Northlane – Alien
Released: August 2nd, 2019
Marcus Bridge // Vocals
Jon Deiley // Lead Guitar
Josh Smith // Rhythm Guitar
Nic Pettersen // Drums
Brendon Padjasek // Bass & Backup Vocals
For the past decade, Northlane have been slaving away, perfecting and honing in on their craft and gaining global recognition in the process. They’ve survived countless lineup changes, gruelling tour schedules, a surprise album drop and still maintained their integrity in the process. All of that has lead to what I am going to be calling their career defining album Alien, which, ten years into their careers proves just how forward focused this band has always been (unlike some of their so called fans). Having reviewed the band’s previous two releases (Node and Mesmer), I couldn’t shy away at the chance to see how much better they had become since then and holy fucking shit am I glad I jumped on this one.
The album begins with the industrial/metalcore blended ‘Details Matter‘ which will instantly grip you by the neck and scream in your face with its incredibly heavy force. You know those superheroes with the force push that blows enemies away? That would be the best way to explain the effect this song had on me the minute I laid ears on it. It is heavy, full of screams and an industrial metal sound unlike anything else Northlane have done in the past. A very welcoming way to kick off the rest of the release. ‘Bloodline‘ is up next and we all know how goood this song is by now. Inspired by frontman Marcus Bridge‘s upbringing. Growing up in a household with drug-addicted parents is something only a small amount of us would have to go through, but the way he’s written his experiences into this song, opens it up for others who have survived messed up/dysfunctional upbringings and came out the other side stronger and more alive than ever. The hard-hitting lyrics of “We grew up scared/Bruised and battered/Youth torn and tattered/As long as you were sky high/Nothing fucking mattered” graphically paint a picture of what Marcus went through during that dark period, but the (somewhat) positive in words in “I was raised in hell/I made it out by myself” offerer a glimmer of hope that no matter how hard the experiences are around you, there’s always a way out at the end of it all. Seeing how strong he has been when talking about the subject matter of this song and the album is really motivating and I hope that others can learn from his life, to come out the other side and better their own. This is up there with song of the year for me and we’re only halfway through 2019.
‘4D‘ speeds things up and takes us back to the late 90s industrial/EDM movement when raves were huge and bands like Rammstein and The Prodigy were rising in success. In a world where metal/heavy bands have been turning to slower EDM/synth heavy sounds and steering away from breakdowns, this is a massive breath of fresh air as the boys don’t lose any credibility for trying something new, because of the fact they fucking nailed the new sound. Its fast, edgy and increasingly addictive. Just try and listen to it once without going back for another spin. The addition of Brendon Padjasek‘s vocals can really be noticed in this one with Marcus (for the majority) focusing on his melodic/clean vocals and Brendo’s screams filling the void behind him. During one point, both blokes take part in a somewhat scream-off which resulted in a huge smile on this guy’s face. The infamous ‘Talking Heads‘ is up next, you know, the song the band played during live shows for what seemed to be an eternity without a studio quality release appearing online (until a couple of weeks back?), yeah that one and it was well worth the wait. This is probably the most “recent” Northlane song on the album so far which shows the band are still paying respect to their previous releases, yet showing how much they’ve grown in the process. The slow-down/breakdown towards the end of the track is fucking brilliant, wholesome and sounds HUGE both as a studio release and a live played track. ‘Freefall‘ slows things down momentarily for the introduction, yet opens everything up for an explosive instrumentally driven chorus section. There are screams, plenty of djent riffs and the makings of yet another fan-favourite belter in this one. ‘Jinn‘ is just a monster of a song. Its as if the boys have sat around talking about all of the different sounds, styles and SFX they can throw into a song, chucked it in a blender, lit it on fire and turned the power on. The end result is a mind-blowingly professional creation so far advanced compared to what they’ve released in the past. No, seriously, this song alone beats everything from the past few albums.
‘Eclipse‘ brings the rave vibes back again completely with Marcus’ now distinguished screams and (to me) it sounds like something that could have been cooked up in the recording process of the band’s collaboration with PhaseOne. This is how you do Heavy Music x EDM right! I have a feeling this one may divide fans, but if you can go into it not expecting it to be a Northlane song, you may grasp the lads’ intentions and appreciate it more than you expect. ‘Rift‘ is the album’s softest and most atmospheric offering. Despite not sounding as huge or loud as the previous tracks, it still packs a punch with the heavy synth and EDM focused sounds throughout. This could be Northlane‘s slower answer to Bring Me The Horizon‘s ‘Nihilist Blues‘ (except not as upbeat) and another fan-divider in my opinion. But never fear, ‘Paradigm‘ brings the heavy screams and sounds back again and my initial thought once it finished was “I can’t wait to see that song live”. There’s so much going on with this song (err this whole album) that it will take you from seeing Northlane live to EXPERIENCING Northlane live. ‘Vultures‘ is up next, which at first was thought to be a standalone single to take us from the Mesmer era to the Alien phase, but it fits so perfectly amongst the rest of the songs on this album, I can’t imagine it not being included. The band’s clap back at fans stuck in the past who were constantly criticising their style and new frontman Marcus Bridge relentlessly after he joined. The end result, as you may recall, had many of them shutting their mouth and welcoming the sound with open arms. Be careful what you wish for when criticising bands, it may come back and punch you in the guts, then spit on your face while you’re gasping for air, much like this song did for many of you.
The album’s climax ‘Sleepless‘ is maybe 96% an EDM dance track and a fitting send off for the plethora of sounds and instrumentals we’ve just been served up, however, about halfway through it erupts into yet again, a gigantic anthemic closer full of emotion, synth and kinda/sorta ballad-esque singing complete with melodic highs and a well placed piano which takes us down to the album’s final note. A very VERY risky way to wrap up this offering, yet it stands on its own two feet alongside some of the best tracks this release has given us.
Northlane have absolutely upped the ante with Alien, showing a side and style they haven’t touched on yet, but have absolutely nailed in the process. This is how you progress musically, bringing in new elements along the way, yet still remaining close to the original source material. This is more than just an album, this is something that is enjoyable from start to finish with each song rolling into each other, taking the listener on a journey through the depths of hell and the shining light on the other side. I don’t use the word masterpiece very often, but this is a fucking masterpiece.
Northlane – Alien tracklisting
1. Details Matter
4. Talking Heads