24th July 2015 - UNFD
For more than a year, well-regarded Australian metalcore outfit Northlane have secluded themselves away, pouring heart and soul alike into what they admit will be a polarising new album: Node. With founding vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes leaving the band after five years, it left them with a fairly large hole to fill – but more than that, Northlane’s core sound was ripe for expansion, and more importantly, maturation. The spot up front aside, Northlane’s lineup is its most stable and consistent, and has been for a number of years now, so the opportunity to experiment was too tantalising not to take.
What you want from Northlane will very much depend on your past relationship with them. Coming to them fresh, their metalcore roots are clear to see, but there’s a tantalising vein of progressive song arrangement, uncovered like a rich vein of something shiny in the earth. Dark and brooding, simplistic chord structures and groove-oriented bass, in combination with unflashy drumming and more expansive, effects-laden guitar lines, keep a consistent tone throughout eleven songs and forty-seven minutes. This kind of coherence is no accident, and laudable – but to the point of overall impairment.
“Rot” is still as notably alluring as it was when it was first debuted as the world’s introduction to new kid in school Marcus Bridge. Djentle trappings – all twangly prog and floaty atmospherics – usher in Bridge’s charming cleans, which provide tidy contrast to his stripped back, throaty roars. With a positive message and a real catchiness to it, it was an inspired opening salvo for the album’s press – but for all the moments of true quality like this one, there are as many across Node that are likely to leave a furrowed brow. Is that chord really all they’re using there? Could we not get a bit of urgency here? Was that drum fill really necessary? These questions are both valid and perplexing, especially when there is such quality elsewhere. The exquisite “Weightless” – all big, hazy and Deftones-like – sits at odds with the trite predictability of “Ra“.
Node’s production has been noted as a point of contention for many. Recorded with ‘core master helmsman Will Putney – veteran of everything from Thy Art Is Murder to Miss May I, as well as Northlane’s previous two albums – it’s very much a matter of taste; in keeping with the album’s divisive presentation. It straddles a line between overly sparse – exacerbating the issues of over-simplicity – and delicate enough that you can hear absolutely everything with startling precision. There’s no doubt that this is how they intended it; whether it’s your preference is entirely subjective.
Whatever its problems, this ‘node’ is a nexus from which Northlane can go to many distant and exciting places. It’s perhaps not quite there yet – it’s markedly progressive in some respects, whilst sorely lacking in others – it’s really quite promising, and as a statement of intent from a band with the ability to go the distance, it’s a strong one.