ALBUM REVIEW: Northlane – Alien

Release Date: August 2nd 2019
Label: UNFD


Australian quintet Northlane have refined their blend of metalcore and industrial based electronica with their fifth full-length, ‘Alien’.

With a strong foothold in avenues explored previously, Northlane have welcomed experimental aspects to strengthen the next step in their evolution.

Opening with ‘Details Matter’, industrial synths pulse alongside thick grooves and intense drum work. Not content with allowing a moments rest, vocalist Marcus Bridge delivers aggressive howls before launching into a melodically rich chorus. After setting up the push and pull dynamics of guitarists Jon Deiley and Josh Smith, the track squeezes in as many dynamics as possible, ranging from back and forth vocal interplay to half time variations and doom influenced chords.

After establishing the record’s sound, the group play with the expectancy of what they should be; whether it’s the electronically driven ‘Bloodline’ or the frenzied metalcore of ‘Paradigm’, the group doesn’t conform to any rule but their own. Still, in order to create an even record, coherency is key, a detail that the group are all too aware of as shown in ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Rift’.

With the use of motifs and smooth dynamic transitions, stomping riffs, and intense screams move towards swelling pads and intimate vocals with ease, and supporting these transitions and adding layers to the weaving synths on the record is drummer Nic Pettersen. Whether it’s the erratic accents portrayed on ‘Freefall’, or the pounding disco style beats shown on ‘Eclipse’, Pettersen delivers multiple standout performances throughout.

Whilst many artists that begun in metalcore have moved towards electronica, Northlane don’t use it as a technique but immerses themselves within the two genres, developing a sound of their own. This is highlighted in ‘4D’, a track that not only boasts rapped verses and gang vocals, but also incorporates dub step style bridges, all held together by bassist Brendon Padjasek.

Leaving the last left turn for the end, ‘Sleepless’ sits within liquid drum and bass territory, allowing melody and crushing chords to close the record. Acting as a drastic change of pace to the manic ‘Vultures’, the track serves as a fitting close.

Ambitious and unapologetic, ‘Alien’ delivers anthemic choruses, lush soundscapes, and vicious riffs effortlessly. Sprawling and dense, the record may not be for fans of Northlane‘s earlier material, but it’s a record that propels them to the next incarnation of their career.