July 29, 2019 Northlane – Alien (Album Review)
When it comes to Rock and Metal bands, Australia has gifted us no shortage of talent: from classics such as AC/DC to current favorites like Parkway Drive. Continuing to cement the fact that Down Unda is so much more than just kangaroos and koalas, prepare to get your socks rocked right off your feet when Northlane deliver their emotional masterpiece, Alien, on Friday, August 2nd, 2019, via UNFD and Rise Records.
Formed in 2009 in Sydney, Progressive Metalcore outfit Northlane reportedly take their name from an Architects’ song, and made their 2011 full-length debut with Discoveries. This paved the way for a trio of additional, award-winning albums over the next six years—2013’s Singularity, 2015’s Node, and 2017’s Mesmer. As the band toured the globe with the likes of Bring Me the Horizon, August Burns Red, The Amity Affliction, and the aforementioned Parkway Drive, they were also accruing an endless list of nominations and awards for their talents. Two-time ARIA Music Award winners, Northlane have certainly built an impressive name for themselves over the past decade.
For their epic fifth studio offering, Northlane—Vocalist Marcus Bridge, Guitarists Jon Deiley and Josh Smith, Bassist Brendon Padjasek, and Drummer Nic Pettersen— have opted to get painfully personal. Produced by the band and mixed by Adam “Nolly” Getgood of Periphery, the 11-song Alien delves into Bridge’s troubled upbringing while authoring a journey that, though it is often steeped in the past, crafts a futuristic, cinematic soundscape thanks to the quartet’s exceptional musicianship.
Alien furiously explodes into the all-too-true “Details Matter.” A frenetic attack of heavy bass, buzzing guitars, and Bridge’s gritty howls, the track insists that no matter how you might try to break them or make them disappear, they are still very much alive and rocking. This segues into the album’s lead-off single/video, “Bloodline,” a deeply personal confession of being raised in hell that turns its angry eye on the abusive father who made Bridge’s upbringing so traumatic.
Seemingly to counterattack all this rage, lush synth-scapes weave throughout the crunchy yet sludgy core of “4D,” providing the track with a Sci-Fi feel—something that sounds like the glorious lovechild of Linkin Park and Architects. All of this before electronics build into the eruption of “Talking Heads.” No, not a loving ode to the much-adored ‘80s band, but another personal glance into Bridge’s past. Amidst the impressive, undulating wall of sound is another look at his youth, growing up in an abusive home with drug-addicted parents. An outsider trapped inside his own head, unwilling to drink the figurative Kool-Aid, this is the battle that raged inside a young boy.
Blending beautiful melody and pained howls with their exceptional technical skills, “Freefall” is the perfect example of Architects’ influence in Northlane’s stellar soundscape. There’s not a second for breath before “Jinn” implodes, initially vicious before it languidly transforms itself into a saccharine sweetness that ultimately explodes into further sonic violence and extra-terrestrial synths.
Steadily thrumming into your consciousness, “Eclipse” opens its doors onto a rave that quickly evolves into something that very closely borders on Industrial Metal before its conclusion ebbs and flows into the ethereal “Rift.” Softly floating veils of sound coalesce around a beat that anchors the track’s be-spelling narrative of destruction. Without a single pause, this flows into the perfectly-paired dichotomies of the raging “Paradigm.”
A gateway single/video released nearly a year ago, the viciously empowering proclamations of “Vultures” are acknowledgement that though there’s an enemy around every corner, Northlane will continue to fight; it is the band and their dedicated following against the world. Ultimately, they end with the lulling melodies of “Sleepless,” a cinematic tour de force that highlights the soaring power in Bridge’s emotional vocals.
In fact, Bridge holds very little back on Alien, discussing both his abusive past and its effects on the present, as well as the expectations that surround someone who has grown up in his situation. Thus, the album’s title is not a nod toward the band’s often futuristic sound, but instead a commentary on Bridge’s innermost struggles. It’s powerful, emotional, and the material throughout Alien shows a heart-wrenching side to one of the talented artists behind its creation.
As always, Northlane exhibit stellar musicianship allowing them to craft exceptional soundscapes that blend heavy moments with syrupy melodies and futuristic feels. Like a theatrical journey, there’s a perfect flow to this tale of struggle and redemption, one that is pitch-perfect and requires not a single moment of tweeking. In short, Northlane have done it again and blow our socks right off our feet. For this, Cryptic Rock give Alien 5 of 5 stars.