NORTHLANE - Alien (Album)
Metalcore was great back in 2008, wasn't it? The meld of down-tuned guitars and stabs of electronica pushed in wherever was deemed necessary, which let's face it was every 30 seconds or right before yet another syncopated breakdown. It seems a shame really that, bar Japan’s Crossfaith, no one has really tried this blend in the last couple of years. Rather the scene as a whole is stuck in 2012 with everyone using the same plugins on Pro Tools. It needs an injection of fresh elements, and who better than a band that have pushed the boundaries a little more on every record.
Coming off of the back of 2017’s ‘Mesmer’, an album that many saw as good, but not great, ‘Alien’ has a lot of work to do. Ramping up the flourishes of prog and making those electronic elements a core aspect of the sound, whilst still keeping one foot planted firmly in their metalcore roots will sound good in a press release, but what about on an album.
Opener ‘Details Matter’ is a scene-setter for a polarizing album. It is jagged in its approach as the low end, almost djent sounding, guitars and drums come crashing against in comparison sweet-sounding synths. All hanging beneath a ferocious performance from vocalist Marcus Bridge. It becomes clear that unlike most of the band's back catalogue, ‘Alien’ is a far more sprawling and multilayered beast.
But there are still hooks-a-plenty, ‘Bloodline’ ingrains itself in your mind and ‘4D’ has the most singable guitar lines to come from a recent metalcore album. ‘Rift’ has a strikingly beautiful ambience and atmosphere in the way that it deploys itself. It creates a great sense of flow across the album as new ideas and movements are created and passed along naturally even amongst the aural chaos.
Unlike the previous NORTHLANE albums that were all a little cliche in their lyrics about space and other such sci-fi tropes, ‘Alien’ is a far more personal record. It is born from the experiences that Marcus had growing up, covering ground such as family alienation (‘Bloodline’) and schizophrenia (‘Talking Heads’). It makes ‘Alien’ a dark and somewhat disturbing listen.
This is a statement from NORTHLANE. Whether or not it fits well with the band's audience remains to be seen. But ‘Alien’ is a creative and heartfelt flourish in a scene that desperately could do with it.
1. Details Matter
4. Talking Heads