Written by: MN on 08/10/2015 18:37:34

Having discovered the joys of Parkway Drive's immense live shows, I felt inclined to explore more of the Australian metalcore scene, and by that venture I came across Sydney-based Northlane. Their sophomore record "Singularity" was a record whose praises I sang back in 2013. Now "Node" hits the markets over two years later, a record that marks the first effort without their original vocalist and songwriter Adrian Fitipaldes, who, unfortunately, had to depart from the scene due to health problems. What originally attracted me to Northlane was their way of combining progressive elements into a contemporary metalcore expression, highlighted by a rhythm section working with mechanical precision, something some may consider generic, but in this case it adds complex depth to the soundscape. Northlane is not your average metalcore band and this fact is further accentuated by "Node".

Admittedly, Fitipaldes’ absence leaves some large shoes to fill, yet Marcus Bridge, their new vocalist, decided to bring his own footwear instead of attempting to mimic the raucous vocals of his predecessor. Bridge does by no means have the same vocal abilities on the harsher scale, but his cleans are a lot stronger in the opinion of yours truly. This added focus on melody and clean singing sees the band deviating from “breakdown” metalcore, and instead focusing on soaring melodies on a bed of post-rock textures, not unlike what Tesseract and Periphery have evolved to become.

The opening track “Node” sees a revved-up bassline pummel you in an almost industrial soundscape, where first indications are that the powerful hooks and passages of slow breakdowns are still prevalent. However, it does not take long before Marcus Bridge is allowed to spread his wings and serenade with his brilliant clean vocals, not unlike Daniel Tompkins or Spencer Sotelo, albeit nowhere near as nasal as Sotelo’s vocal execution. “Obelisk” is a song that proves how absolutely integral the drum production is to the overall experience, and in this song the performance of Nic Pettersen stands out enormously. Songs like “Node” bring back memories of early 2000s and late 90s alternative rock ventures like those of Adema and Deftones, the latter presumably a big influence on Bridge’s vocal execution.

As mentioned earlier, Northlane utilizes a lot of post-rock elements, like large delays on background guitar melodies which successfully make Northlane’s spiritually-tinged music a thought-provoking and ambient audial experiences for its listeners. One of the more raw tracks on the record is “Rot”, their first single that combines their socio-critical lyrics of environment preservation with Bridge’s best attempts at successful screaming. One of my personal favourites is “Leech”, a song that has one of the more memorable chorus hooks and a damn beastly bridge section, again highlighted by awesome drum work. Album finisher “Animate” finishes off on a high note with an invigorating song with plenty of dramatic antiques to provide a potent full stop to an album definitely worth listening to.

Now, seeing as I find myself singing some of the same praises, I also do feel the inclination to criticize. Northlane may have moved away from textbook metalcore into more post-hardcore/prog-metal territory, yet this also means that they have lost some of the tight force in their execution of memorable riffs that stick with you. For the sake of melody, some of the brutality has lost its way and that will mean some fans will choose to jump of the wagon. I personally like the direction Northlane have taken, but they have to make sure that they don’t go too “shoe-gazy” and thereby become generic in an entirely different domain than their original heritage. But check this record out, boys and girls, it's good music.


Download: Node, Ra, Animate
For The Fans Of: Architects, Palms, In Hearts Wake

Release date 24.07.2015
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