Review || Northlane - "Alien"

Northlane is releasing their highly anticipated fifth studio album on August 02 via UNFD. It comes a little over two years after the critically acclaimed "Mesmer". My relationship with the Australian outfit began rather randomly, when I somehow discovered "Masquerade" from "Singularity". It didn't take long for me to go back to "Discoveries" and get hooked on their music. Markus Bridge's arrival in the band marked a pretty clear change of music direction with the release of "Node". Marcus was the perfect fit for this, responding proficiently to the shifting landscape. Still, that effort was timid; it wasn't until "Mesmer" (my favorite album to date) that everything fell into place. You may ask; why did you bother with all this exposition, lady? The answer is, because I needed to establish that Northlane holds a dear place in my heart and I'm proud of their growth and the creative ways they push boundaries and reinvent themselves with every album.

Ed: -When I started writing this piece, I had formed an individual opinion on "Alien"; 24 hours prior to the release, guitarist Josh Smith made a quick post on the feelings behind the creation of the album, what fans should expect and, most importantly, that they should approach it with an open mind. I can't stress this enough. 

Lyrically, Bridge draws inspiration from his dark childhood, parts of which were already hinted in "Mesmer". He is vocal about his past, the things that shaped him and how he survived the abuse. It is safe to say that incorporating all these haunting elements into Northlane's craftmanship not only changed the dynamic of the album, but also added a considerable weight to the performance. Musically, however, things are tricker this time. The electronic parts are dominant; still, Jonathon Deiley has done an exceptional job to keep a balance, making sure that they enrobe the tracks without overshadowing the instrumentation or distracting the listener. Finally, the title "Alien" appears to hold a dual meaning. One, the literal word to signify something/someone foreign or strange. Secondly, the band's desire to expand further than the norms of their "genre"; they stretch the limits of modern metalcore and create a tangible distance from their counterparts, also separating their identity from all misconceptions people have for them. 

The first thing the listener will notice is that the album is anything but homogenous. Bear with them, I promise everything makes sense in the end. "Alien" marks the growth of the band both as individuals as well as a collective entity. At the first spin, the album can feel a little overwhelming. Opener "Details Matter" hits you straight in the face with a djenty wave and a tight underpinning rhythm section. Au contraire, the following track and first single, "Bloodline", has a strong 00's aesthetic and Marcus experiments with his vocals, keeping his melodies terse and engaging into screaming outbursts only when necessary. I find that particularly interesting in the chorus where, knowing the facts of the background, I would expect him cathartically screaming his heart out over the empowering lyrics "I was raised in hell/I made it out by myself". Then, there's a track like "4D", where a certain and very blatant industrial element seems to hijack the composition -and for some reason, I can see it perfectly getting a crowd pumped during a show. Up next is the single "Talking Heads", which seems to channel its inner Motionless In White vibes -although considering how much MIW draws from their inspirations themselves, this root-tracing thing will take a while to explore in this text. "Freefall" touches on a few Architects-y parts in the guitar work, which would be forbidden to even think of for many contemporary bands, while "Jinn" shines bright with the interchangeability of light cleans and expressive screams. At this point, it is impossible not to notice the stark contrast between Marcus' current breathy, almost ethereal higher notes, and his controlled belting on "Mesmer". 
We enter the second half of the album with the third single, "Eclipse". Don't let the music fool you; the lyrics of the track are some of the heaviest the band has written. In the end, I can guarantee you that you will feel the lyrics "You think we're one in the same/There's more to me than a name /I'll wear it proud but /I will never let myself be like you" with every fiber of your being. The following song, "Rift", could be considered as the "power ballad" of the record, only in electronic form. The song is entirely based on beats, juxtaposing the calmer vocal melody. "Paradigm" on the other hand develops a nü(ish) character, revealing a brand new facet of the album. "Vultures", the very first piece of new (and unexpectedly heavy) music that emerged last summer, would make you think that "Alien" will close with a full circle, starting and closing with a banger. In reality, we reach the end of the album with "Sleepless", a dreamy and very emotional song, which builds momentum, slowly at first and then reaching peaks as ti goes, first with a powerful crescendo where the heartbreaking vocals match the soaring instrumentation and then with the immersive basslines. This album, much like ancient tragedies, in the end, works therapeutically both for the performer and for the audience. 

On a personal scale, I would give it a 7/10; although it's too djenty/proggy for my taste, to put it honestly, Northlane has the fucking balls to dare and I appreciate that more than anything.
On an objective reviewer scale, taking into consideration all the above and the band's linear trajectory, it's a solid 10/10.
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