Australian metal is at an all-time high. If you take a quick look at the current scene down under, you’ll notice that there’s far more to get excited about here than in any other territory. With joint frontrunners Parkway Drive and Tonight Alive both proudly flying the Australian flag, albeit the latter in the punk scene, it’s safe to say that plenty of groups look set to follow suit. One such group is the Sydney-based quintet Northlane, who currently find themselves atop a pile of great upcoming bands such as Hands Like Houses, Storm the Sky, The Amity Affliction and In Hearts Wake. Having bid farewell to their previous vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes last year, the quintet are now gearing up to release new album Node with vocalist Marcus Bridge. The album comes out on the 24th of July via UNFD Records, and you can check out an in-depth preview of the record by reading on.
The record opens on the cataclysmic ambience of Soma, a track which takes its time to erupt into full chaos. A fuzz-laden bass and percussion combo help the track progress as Bridge’s fierce, raspy howl enters the frame. “I refuse to die here” screams the frontman as Jonathon Deiley and Joshua Smith’s intertwine seamlessly with one another. From the off, Node is an extremely ambitious record which sees Northlane throw every card in their hand at the table. “I see the prison of a city destined for collapse” sings Bridge once Soma dies down, his clean vocal just as effective as his screams. The downbeat section is a nice contrast from the brutality, building up nicely into a huge closing section. New single Obelisk follows, with a guitar-led wall of sound accompanying one, guttural growl from Bridge. It eventually makes way for
a clean verse which seems bathed in euphoria, Bridge’s vocals underpinned by an
oriental-flecked instrumental tone. “Driven to live, we’re drifting apart” he sings during the chorus, its double-tempo drum and bass combination holding the track together. Although slight hints of autotune are prevalent on Obelisk, it’s quickly swallowed up by 00001 metalcore by-numbers drops and ambient drones. The ambient drones, which are heard throughout the whole record, add an eerie sense of melancholy to proceedings, something which gives Node an extra point of interest. The instrumental side of things may be strong (albeit occasionally generic), yet the lyrics are sincere, to-the-point and powerful. Obelisk’s environmental consciousness sets up a new dimension from which you can analyse Northlane’s music, and it’s something which not many bands are doing today. The title track, Node, kicks off with a jangly guitar intro and Bridge’s anthemic declaration of, “you can be the change”. This bold claim sets up high expectations for the rest of the track, one which generally stays at a calmer pace as it builds itself up and tears itself down. The chorus repeats Bridge’s bold declaration, making it the focal point of the song. Brutal screams appear throughout as Bridge sings of “slipping through the glass”, before a quiet mid-section becomes more prominent and leads the track into its bridge. An electronics-led outro subsequently brings the track to an end, leading into the fierce Ohm. Faster drumming and dark drop riffs form the central structure of the track, underpinning Bridge’s gutsy growls and clean wails. “Wanderer never coming home” he sings during the chorus, his voice really doing well in taking the listener on a journey. The way that Bridge manages to flitter between silky smooth clean vocals and guttural growls is something which you have to compliment the new vocalist on, especially considering the full-on nature of writing and touring so soon.
Nameless’ opening keyboard line is similar to a more nuanced version of Linkin Park, with marching band-style drums swiftly following alongside a chanted vocal fit for arenas. The instrumental interlude does well in building anticipation for the rest of the record, its short two minutes doing well to separate the first and second half of Node from one another. Comeback single Rot utilizes more dreamy electronics, ultimately culminating in an extremely brutal chorus. “Don’t let the world rot” screams Bridge as his voice tears through the track and destroys everything in its path. Intricate underlying guitars and airy electronics continue to stake their claim during the second verse, doing Bridge’s voice even more justice by giving him the perfect springboard to demonstrate his vocal prowess. Rot is one of the best songs on the album by a long shot, encompassing everything good that flies by on Node. It goes to cataclysmic lengths to put its point across, especially during the chaotic mid-section which sees everything come together. “We are all connected” continues Bridge towards the end, before Leech takes over. Leech was recently the subject of a Twitter hunt which saw the track be split into equal parts and scattered across the web. It was up to fans to piece the song together with little assistance, eventually being released in its complete form after a few short hours. “Pull me underwater” sings Bridge at the beginning, his subdued voice almost instantly being wiped away by a drastic plea for the environment. “Show me the truth, not an excuse” pleads the frontman during a fast-paced instrumental section, one which preceded Leech’s extremely anthemic chorus. It’s only on Leech where we also see the full extent of Nic Pettersen’s technically skilled drumming, something which has definitely helped pull the record together (alongside Alex Milovic’s bass). “Show me a way out” asks Bridge, sarcastically continuing his plea with the claim, “Cover your footprint like a band aid on a broken arm”. The point Bridge is trying to make here is that people are doing their best, but that they still aren’t doing enough.
Impulse kicks off at a faster pace, building up in intensity from the off as Bridge sings of technological detachedness. “So alone in our digital world” he sings, his voice filled with both a notion of emptiness as well as one of intent. “The walls are closing in” he continues as the guitars continue to intertwine seamlessly with one another. One of Northlane’s USPs is definitely the intricacy of Deiley and Smith’s guitars, a claim which can be built on across the whole of Node. Weightless kicks off with a pulsating buzzsaw synth, one which eventually contrasts with reverb-laced guitars. The ambient atmosphere presented here is eventually joined by Pettersen and Milovic’s drum and bass combo, both of which form Northlane’s strong backbone. Bridge’s vocals are subdued on Weightless, contrasting well with the downtrodden instrumental sections. There’s fuzz on parade all across the track, yet it does take a while for the song to finally reach its peak. “Weightless beyond gravity” sings Bridge during the climax, before a long, drawn-out vocal note leads the track into a hypnotic closing. Penultimate track Ra carries an Egyptian-tinged title, just like the guitar riff which presents itself during the intro. This riff is soon obliterated, though, instead being replaced by in-your face drops, neck-crushing bass and Bridge’s strong vocal tone. It builds up during the chorus once more, slipping in and out of consciousness as brutal riff-laden sections take the helm. Double-bass drumming underpins the whole affair, eventually making way for album closer Animate. Animate is everything that a good album closer should be – pulsating, interesting, intense and powerful. Clean vocals and an eerie riff ring in proceedings like a storm racing through the sky, adding to the air of excitement and intensity which has prevailed throughout the majority of Node.
As the record heads for a chaotic ending, it becomes very clear that Northlane know exactly what they’re doing. Animate brings Node to a powerfully ambient close, closing the curtain on a record which was as conscious musically as it was lyrically. Northlane are currently one of the most exciting metal bands around, and Node demonstrates exactly why this is the case with effortless ease.
Node is out on 24 July via UNFD Records and Rise. Watch the video for Obelisk below.