Since the departure of frontman and founding member Adrian Fitipaldes approximately a year ago, the future of Sydney’s Northlane was left in questionable purgatory. The announcement was a sucker-punch to the band’s steady climb towards greatness, with their sophomore hit of Singularity placing 3rd on the ARIA charts at the time of release.
The ensuing audition process for a replacement vocalist was a lengthy one, with the emerging Marcus Bridge being flung into the mix without a moment’s notice, learning on his feet through the two-week writing process of then single ‘Rot’ as well as subsequent international touring.
Node marks a heavy deviation from the group’s previous efforts. Utilizing a more dynamic, ethereal sound; the five-piece have taken a pragmatic approach catering to Bridge’s style in order to capitalize on his strengths as a vocalist. This is effective almost immediately on the slow-burning album opener of ‘Soma’, in which Jon Deiley and Josh Smith play off one another, creating a contrasting ebb and flow between light and heavy.
Bridge not only has a wholly unique voice, but also sells his capability to sing through some of Northlane’s most memorable chorus work to date. Luckily, it never gets a chance to become grating, as he moderates this on the regular with some fierce, powerful screams that add to the overall depth of each track, most notably during the ensuing ‘Obelisk’.
[include_post id=”440931″] Right off the bat, it’s clear that Node takes a more outwardly approach in its lyricism, with ideas thematically linked to humanity as a whole, touching on the fragility of the environment during both ‘Leech’ and ‘Rot’ as well as the arguable regression of human connection through a flood of social media on the likes of ‘Impulse’.
The opening few licks of the title track are tinged with a subtle Karnivool influence, making it clear that Deiley idolizes a more progressive route, and Nic Pettersen is more than happy to follow suit behind his kit. In fact, the likes of ‘Ohm’ really cements Petersen as the bands integral backbone as he piles away into his snare and cymbal hits, giving the song (and moreover, entire album) a dynamic, tightened feel, without relying so much on heaviness just for heaviness sake.
‘Nameless’ acts as a lullaby-esque interlude before seguing into ‘Rot’, freshly re-recorded since its conception late last year. Originally, Bridge’s voice came off more as an accessory to the band than anything else, but with the newly updated version, he leads the track with comfort and confidence, transforming it into a more natural sounding opus.
Each track stands tall on its own merit, but the album is cohesively fluid, solidifying the record as a whole piece of work instead of an arbitrary collection of songs. The chorus of ‘Leech’ is about as infectious as the title might suggest, and ‘Weightless’ is a beautifully serene reprieve to the album’s latter half. However it’s the closer of ‘Animate’ that arguably stands far and away as the album’s best cut. Bridge’s soaring vocals cleave through technical fingerpicking and thick waves of almost funk-like bass from Alex Milovic, making it a challenge to omit from first listen.
“The narrow road is all I know. No map to guide us. No compass beside us.”
Production wise isn’t typical of the genre, either. Breakdowns might sound dampened, but it allows the complex layering of instruments to become much more audible, which is a blessing considering how much there is going on, it can be hard to keep up at times. Every instrument is meticulously timed and crafted, but also simultaneously manages to sound organic, abstaining from coming across as muddled or overly detached.
Node will undoubtedly be a divisive record for fans, and the aforementioned lack of heaviness will most likely be a fork in the road for genre enthusiasts.
Evolution and progression aside; Northlane should be commended for their efforts, considering how easy it could have been to make the same record again. Tastefully combining elements of hardcore metal, progressive rock, and even hints of mathcore, Northlane have come miles since their debut EP Hollow Existence in 2010. Despite both the tragedies and acclamations they’ve received over their career, Node will see the Sydney quintet ascend above their metalcore contemporaries – and they’ll be all the better for it.
Node is out today the 24th July via UNFD