Album Review: Northlane - Alien
Genre: Progressive Metalcore
Review by Steve Jenkins
If there was ever a definition or a prime example when it comes to evolution within the metalcore genre, look no further than Northlane. Over the past decade this Sydney based juggernaut has taken the world by storm, performing in every major country you can think of. Playing to thousands upon thousands of people at festivals in Europe and the States, and gaining a legion of fans whilst doing so. There's no doubt that Northlane have worked hard to get to where they are now, and right now is a very exciting time to be Northlane. It's time for the era of Alien to begin.
The first taste of new music we got from the band were tracks "Vultures" and "Bloodline" which were excellent singles to get people hyped for the album. They are punchy, heavy and catchy, with hints of new sounds and directions that do an excellent job of stimulating your senses leaving you wanting more. Well, there's definitely more and if you liked those two songs then you're bound to lose your mind over the rest of this album. Alien feels like a return to form almost for Northlane, you get the feeling that this album is not only a major shake-up for the listener but for the band as well. New members, new influences, new sounds, new life. Those things all come through predominantly when you're listening to Alien.
The opening track, "Details Matter", comes right out the gate with some hard EDM sounds before bursting into a barrage of screams, drums and guitars. At only 10 seconds in, you know you're in for something different and unique, and Northlane do exactly that. This track is actually a highlight for me personally, and after starting off so strong I wasn't sure if they'd be able to keep my attention at a high for the rest of the album. But sure enough, I was able to listen from start to finish without experiencing a single dull or tedious moment. "Bloodline" reminds you once again how great of a track it really is, with that catchy chorus and seemingly effortless chugging that could quite easily pass for some Meshuggah worship.
The performances on Alien are overall stronger too, particularly the vocals and drumming, which are full of life and constantly breaking the norm, which is such a refreshing and often complicated feat to achieve, especially in this genre of music. Even for myself, as someone who isn’t the biggest metalcore fan, I find this album to be very appealing because it’s so different. Marcus Bridge has a tremendous ability to incorporate harsh tones with beautiful and soaring vocals, taking you on a journey and in many cases pouring emotion into each and every song you hear. The breakdowns are well placed and not too frequent on this album, and the guitar parts that come along with them are once again a little interesting and melodious, not over-the-top, constant chugging like you’ll hear on most generic metalcore records. I see many bands try and experiment and try elevating their sound but to very little success, and Northlane have prevailed in doing so, especially here. It just sounds mature and slightly more tasteful, without completely changing everything to some drastic degree. Alien is a captivating album, simply for the fact that Northlane for me personally have gone from a metalcore band that I often overlooked, to a group of musicians that I now actually quite dig. They’ve managed to complete a sudden transition from the stagnant metalcore universe to alternative rock relatively smoothly. This will be a release that I will keep listening to rather than forgetting about it after a few weeks, it’s that good. But despite making this a pretty enjoyable experience for the most part, Northlane have simply found themselves at the top of a pile of otherwise very generic bands, so it’s not as if they’ve become something brilliant or groundbreaking, just very decent and accomplished, which is great. Still, this is an enormous leap in contrast and style that does not sound out of place or forced at all. I’m very interested to see where they go from here, because I’m there for it. 4/5 Alien is out August 2nd via UNFD. Pre-order your copy here - https://unfd.lnk.to/A1ien