The Roundhouse, Sydney NSW
August 21 & 22, 2020
Justifiably one of the most decorated artists and filmmakers of all time Orson Welles has been famously quoted as saying: “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations”; in this current tormented state of the world, one would be hard pressed to find a more suiting phrase or storyteller to capture the agony artists and humanity for that matter, have encountered through COVID-19. A brief examination of The War Of The Worlds will give some insight into this notion – an event which dramatically changes the world and alters life for humankind. However, read the aforementioned quote again and realise the element of “hope”. Film, television and theatre have all been pushed to the brink of extinction with this pandemic but are far from deceased, just re-imagined until a sense of normality returns. But how do we capture the feeling of live music?
Televised live music is far from a new innovation – in June 1967 The Beatles starred in the first live global TV broadcast; this was a major success because the possibility of travel to international destinations were a near impossibility for admirers to witness bands of that magnitude “live”. In retrospect, this opportunity let the fans from any accessible region of the globe experience arguably the planet’s greatest outfit. Art experienced and adored with limitations.
While technology has certainly taken a step forward in the last 50 years and the foundation of experiencing live music has expanded exponentially – the essence and passion for devotees however, are essentially the same. The virus has adjusted our ways of life, so we have to adapt; in terms of concerts, welcome back to 1967.
Sydney’s ExperiMetal (could be a genre?) favourites Northlane are far from The Beatles, but they do align with The War Of The Worlds to an extent. After releasing their fifth and potentially most revered studio album AL1EN (get it? Explore author Herbert George Wells if not); a record which, self-confessed, saved the quintet from the brink of collapse, the five-piece undertook one of their most successful, and for Northlane personally, significant world tours they have ever embarked on. Live At The Roadhouse is capturing that time and unforgettable era of Northlane and it is out of this world.
Describing the stage and visual production as “vast and immaculate” is a very accurate definition, however it is not cinematic in the band’s execution. Matter-of-factly, this is a direct and immediate rock show which is exactly what music aficionados need to re-encounter, as this simple pleasure is nearly erased from our current reality. There is little conversation between the band and audience throughout the hour long performance – but why consult when you can consort? The best bond for a band and their crowd is through their music.
Opener ‘Talking Heads’ stuns the observer(s) similar to Fox Mulder undergoing an extra-terrestrial interaction – shock from the near-unknown identity radiating energy inherently astounding those exposed, then provoking a blood-rush and adrenaline that defies former knowledge. Thereafter, a familiarity; as the witness returns to Earth (so to speak) – this is live music and we need to RE-LIVE it. ‘Intuition’ is a fantastic reminder that although Northlane have progressed, they can still have their original cherished impact around the Djent/melodic metalcore realm but with their distinction stamped on the genre blend. A facet that undoubtedly Loathe were in awe of.
The focus for this production is on the quintet’s most recent opus (thankfully) and the songs glimmer in the live setting: ‘Details Matter’ has a dystopian futuristic feel that is hauntingly suiting and hopefully not a prediction for the near future. ‘Jinn’ is practically a step further from this perspective recalling The Matrix Reloaded Zion dance scene – the New South Welshmen stand in front of the crowd (and soon-to-be infinite watchers) truthfully unafraid; it is just as inspiring.
One can never escape their past; vocalist Marcus Bridge faces his with every world written on the most recent LP – the aspiration though, is with his formal past introduction: ‘Rot’. Now, this is an incitement undoubtedly, it still possesses the same power as it did when it was used to unveil Northlane’s new frontman: Who knew how relevant this song would or could become to our “now”? ‘Citizen’ has so many phases that the track itself is a gymnastic event: Bright, ballad, bleak, brutal – BLOCKBUSTER – brilliance. There is room to breathe gratefully with ‘4D’ and ‘Freefall’, these songs somehow combine components of Enter Shikari, The Prodigy and the electro-melodic side of The Dillinger Escape Plan – actually this interval is more a “rival” to that idea. The vitality is still vigorous, call it “redefined”.
Purists need not fear – ‘Obelisk’ has the TesseracT transference that helped shape Northlane and consequently ‘Vultures’ is the destruction. ‘Eclipse’ is a bit of a surprising highlight with an eloquence not yet displayed by the five-piece; “dance-core” if there is such a thing – the confetti oddly adds a finesse to the visual. A favourite for this writer ‘Bloodline’ was the peak of this concert and the band’s discography; in 1997 a version of the comic Spawn was released as a feature length film, included is undoubtedly one of the most criminally underrated soundtracks ever to be incorporated with comic-to-film productions. If there is ever a re-imagination, this is the song to open the motion picture.
There are two songs which close this event which we can admiringly return to or engage in; the first ‘Sleepless’ is one Marcus Bridge and Northlane barely endure – their recently released documentary can expose more but it has been revealed that this track will never be performed live again. It is eerily powerful and leaves Marcus in tears and the watchers trembling with emotional disturbance. But, from trembling to tremors, the band then climaxes with ‘Quantum Flux’ and ironically we are all left if a valley of smoke.
No, Orson Welles did not write The War Of The Worlds – he re-imagined it. He portrayed the novel on radio and did so with such authenticity that listeners actually thought that aliens had invaded the Earth; “the enemy of art is the absence of limitations”.
His creation Citizen Kane is still regarded as the greatest film of all time, yet the hindrances faced to make and release the movie are still impossible to believe decades later.
Northlane almost met their demise and are currently incapable of functioning as the artists they have worked so hard to be. Here is an invitation to their universe – let’s transcend to that dimension and ‘Aspire’.
Stream Review By – Will Oakeshott @TeenWolfWill
Northlane: Live at the Roundhouse
Friday August 21 – 8pm AEST
Saturday August 22 – 8pm AEST