Northlane delve into history to bring you modern tech metal
You know when google celebrates the anniversary of the life, death or work of a notable person from history by changing its title font? Well Northlane were clearly paying attention on the day that the work of 17th century German physicist Franz Mesmer was highlighted. The man who gave us the theory of ‘animal magnetism’, the word mesmerise, and this album’s title. By rooting their album in a historical concept the Aussies tech metal group have gifted their newest effort a seriousness and a focus, a method that has been attempted before by metal bands (see Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind)
But this is not really a concept album. Unlike say, Mastodon’s Leviathan from recent times (arguably a benchmark for metal concept albums), the theme leant by the title doesn’t stretch much further than that. The lyrical content is only tenuously linked to Mesmer the Man’s work, but that doesn’t mean that Mesmer the Album’s theme is without purpose. From opening track ‘Citizen’ Mesmer takes the listener on a journey through a wormhole. Jagged, angular riffs and pummelling drum beats create a kaleidoscope of sound that breaks down the walls of reality and take you through the outer limits of the cosmos, searching for answers.
Comparisons can be drawn with last years Avenged Sevenfold record The Stage in its sci-fi soundscapes, but also in its ‘surprise’ release (as we have previously discussed on this website; dropping a new single a mysterious video ruined a little of the surprise). Comparisons are also drawn with peers Periphery and Tesseract. Firstly with the similarity of the cover artwork between this record and the latters’ Polaris. Secondly with Northlane’s tech metal chops now being very much correct and present. Melodic keyboards and vocalist Marcus Bridge’s use of excellent dual clean and screamed vocals surround a barrage of heavy down-tuned guitars. On ‘Heartmachine’ twin guitarists Jon Deiley and Josh Smith’s repetitive surgical guitar work drive the song relentlessly forward. Later, ‘Intuition’ is written for the mosh pit, its huge breakdowns infections and delightfully aggressive.
In the second half of the album ‘Zero-One’ changes the pace and offers a mind-melding assault of galaxy crushing riffs and space deconstructing rhythms. ‘Fade’ summons more comparisons, here with a healthy dose of Linkin Park, its post-hardcore melodies and focus on clean vocals making it sound larger than life. The whole thing is afforded a sleek, modern sounding production that slices through your speakers.
Northlane have not re-invented the wheel here, nor have they done much to challenge fans expectations or experiment with their own sound. if you like their previous work and 2015’s Node in particular, you will like this, but you won’t be pushed much further than that. It also does little to vary the songs along its runtime: apart from ‘Render’s’ dark, hypnotic heaviness and melancholy keys and closer ‘Paragons’ cacophony of tech-pop grandeur, this is business as usual. But in a world where a band like Linkin Park threaten to ever further alienate their fan base, familiarity is sometimes a welcome prospect in an uncertain universe.
Verdict: Not departing from an established genre, but a great addition to one. Existing fans will love it, and new ones will be gained. Northlane continue to make their mark and stand up among their peers. Catch them live for this one, the mosh pits gonna go off.
For fans of: Periphery, Tesseract, Linkin Park, Buried in Verona
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