Words by Paul MacFarlan
I’ve come to the conclusion that with all of the Area 51 stuff floating around the internet someone in Northlane is actually Morpheus and knows the future (Jon Deiley, I’m looking at you) the title of their 5th album “Alien” is very fitting. That however is where the similarity ends. If you were expecting an album about lifeforms from another planet, you’re outta luck. What you get instead is an incredibly personal account of vocalist Marcus Bridge’s life growing up. It’s a story of being an alien and having a difficult upbringing which if I’m honest is an incredibly heavy listen both emotionally and musically.
Start to finish this album floored me. Marcus is quite possibly the best vocalist out of Australia doing this sort of music. He has the most atmospheric vocals at times but can also pound you into dust. Produced by the band themselves and recorded in their hometown of Sydney, Australia “Alien” has been flawlessly executed.
The album opens with an almost electronic alarm sounding guitar tone in Details Matter, with a few samples also thrown in. Marcus lets fly with some fiercely barked vocals. Strap yourself in, this is going to be a good listen. I can already see this track opening their live shows for this album cycle and it’s going to fire everyone up.
Lead single Bloodline surprised me when it was first released as it reminds me of a dark new wave 80’s sort of song but with 21st century production. This song also has quite possibly the best chorus Northlane have ever written, beautifully melodic and dangerously heavy all at once.
4D opens with an almost disco beat and I think helps cement the point that drummer Nic Petterson is one of the most innovative drummers Australia has ever produced. 4D is Northlane showing just how atmospheric they can be and creating soundscapes and having a perfect balance between loud and quiet. Talking heads is the other lead single released off “Alien” and it is excellent. No doubt by now you’ve heard it. The effects Marcus uses makes him sound alien and it fits perfectly. This hits hard both musically and emotionally.
If Northlane had a trademark sound, Freefall is it. A wickedly groovy guitar tone and a polyrythmic drumbeat. Marcus just floats in this song; his voice is weightless and beautiful. Listening to this and deciphering some of the lyrics, I am beginning to realise just how cathartic this album must have been for him. As weightless as Freefall makes you feel, Jinn hits you hard. Straight in, with no messing about. To me Northlane have always written incredibly strong songs dating back to the first time I heard Keymaker way back in their early days. Songs that make you think, songs that can be interpreted 30 different ways. Jinn is yet another song that makes you sit back and listen and then listen again and again.
Eclipse is like being at Defqon but with Northlane controlling the music and putting their own spin on it. Different, very different but I dig it.
Rift is beautifully melodic and has Marcus crooning, which re-iterates my point I made at the beginning of this. Marcus is in a class of his own as vocalists out of this country. Absolutely phenomenal voice and an incredible frontman. Straight away Paradigm grabbed me as a track you could comfortably listen to on a radio station as well as in an alt club. It’s radio friendly but also heavy. Radio metal? Think Linkin Park & The Prodigy but with Northlane’s brilliant level of execution.
People with keen ears will recognise Vultures as a track recorded with previous bass player Alex Milovic now with Dealer and it’s a track I was psyched to see included on Alien. It’s beautifully bouncy and an amazing way to showcase the absolute riff factory Northlane have with Josh & Jon. It’s almost unfair just how ridiculously talented each and every member of this band is.
Closing out the album is Sleepless which starts with a beautifully crafted set of electronic beats and Marcus softly singing over them. This is Marcus at his most vulnerable and it is absolutely beautiful. Enter the rest of the band for by far the most powerful piece Northlane have ever written. Soaring vocal melodies, big drums and the guitar mastery. Sleepless is an absolute masterpiece and the best way to close an album.
All in all Northlane have created an absolute monster of an album, one that is going to catapult them to the upper echelons of the music industry universe. Each and every song is diverse and different but still maintains that Northlane signature without being predictable with it. My only fear with “Alien” is that it is very produced and it makes me wonder just how well it can be pulled off live. I have little to no doubt that a band like Northlane will be able to pull it off. The mixing on “Alien” is superb and potentially the best Adam Getgood has done, nothing is overpowered and it all has its own space to shine.
“Alien” is out worldwide on August 2nd and I strongly recommend people everywhere check it out. Not just Northlane fans but fans of music. This album has something for everyone. It’s no easy task with the amount of talent out there, but for me “Alien” by Northlane is the ALBUM OF THE YEAR.
You can pre-order Alien in digital, CD or vinyl formats HERE.