Sydney metallers Northlane just seem to go from strength to strength, between their crushing live show and the ever-increasing quality of each studio release there’s just no stopping this runaway train. After surprise-dropping their fourth studio album, Mesmer, in 2017, the lads have wasted no time in getting back to work and this year sees the release of their fifth, and arguably best, effort Alien.
The album starts out strong with a hard electro-bass intro to opening track Details Matter making good on the bands promise to release a more heavy-hitting album than its predecessor as vocalist Marcus Bridge leads his fellow cohorts in a no-holds-barred tirade against the antagonist(s) of his youth. It’s a theme that permeates throughout the entire album; the demons of addiction, the pain and suffering it ultimately causes and the adverse affects of a youth exposed to such a lifestyle.
This is proven more so in the single Bloodline and its accompanying video clip which provides an uncomfortably accurate depiction of the way in which their abusive addict father raised Bridge and his sister. Lyrically this album is painful, you can read the words and understand that they’re coming from a place of honest suffering but when coupled with the vocalists delivery it makes you feel the pain and desperation that he must have felt growing up. There are no hidden meanings in the lyrics here, just straight up honesty (see the track Freefall) and it really opens your eyes.
But it’s not just the lyrics that make this album stand out so much; musically it is far beyond anything Northlane have previously accomplished. Guitarist Jon Deiley seamlessly melds heavy programming elements into his and fellow guitarist Josh Smith’s often intricate yet crushing guitar riffs and sometimes even lets the programming element take center stage (see Rift).
This is all complimented beautifully by the rhythm section, which is now made up of long time drummer Nic Pettersen and newly appointed bassist Brendon Padjasek, formerly of the band Structures, who also provides some epic backing screams and vocals across the albums run time.
Despite it’s depressing and confronting subject matter this album won’t make you want to run and hide in a corner in state of pure sadness. Quite the opposite, it fuels a fire inside you to take charge against the kinds of people who choose these lifestyles and hurt the people around them. The pure heaviness of tracks such as Eclipse and Vultures expertly showcase Northlane’s ability to write a pounding anthem while others such as Rift and closing track Sleepless show a softer side of the groups musicality and puts Bridge’s vast vocal range on show.
The band have delved deep into their past and present demons to create something truly unique here. It’s a brutally honest album and one which when looked at under a microscope truly makes you feel uncomfortable but in an extremely eye-opening way. As mentioned earlier, Northlane just get better and better with age but they definitely have their work cut out for them trying to top this one.
Alien, out August 2 via UNFD.
Alien pre-orders are available now.
Alien is available as Exclusive Vinyl, CD and Merchandise options in limited quantities worldwide via unfdstore.com.
Watch the Bloodline video here: