Northlane have been rising through the progressive metalcore ranks with each album they’ve released since 2011. Once they acquired multi-faceted frontman Marcus Bridge in 2015, it seemed the band were destined for new heights. With two studio albums and a live LP dropping since then, the band appeared to be primed to release an album that would launch them into the vast grandiosity of space. With that in mind, it seems apt that their latest album would be titled Alien. What has hurdled through our solar system and crashed to Earth is indeed the very album that defines the band and will see them taken back to their home planet, wherever that may be.
Alien sees the band leaning heavily into the electronics that they’ve been focusing on more and more ever since the release of 2015’s Node. These elements are no longer simply used for atmospheric flourish or window dressing for what is going on at the forefront, but are instead completely woven throughout the sound and themes of the album. The cold industrial distortions and sonic bends/breaks play into the themes of isolation and alienation that Marcus presents throughout the record while also drenching the instrumentals in barbed auras of static. These electronics give the record its undeniable identity. It’s the sound of one hand aggressively reaching into the future and pulling out pure power while the other aggressively reaches back into the past to find an authentic sense of anger, defiance and genuine feeling.
The band stand in the center of this past and future acting as a node to carry this powerful current. What flows through are vicious bursts like ‘Jinn’, ‘Eclipse’ ‘4D’ and ‘Talking Heads’. These songs are super-charged statements from the band that borrow from nu-metal for that aforementioned sense of anger. The metalcore aspects of their sound give these songs just as much bounce and groove as any nu-metal band could have hoped to pull off in their heydays. It’s not all anger and speaking through clenched teeth, though.
On top of the ferocity, there is a sense of beauty and healing. Songs like ‘Freefall’, ‘Rift’ and ‘Sleepless’ still have an underlying energy that carries them forward while simultaneously seeing Marcus lift them up in order to launch them into orbit. These tracks carry a sense of euphoria on their shoulders in order to make you feel like you’re floating. You can feel the pain and emotion as plain as the nose on your face, but it takes you out of your body and allows you to experience the beauty that can come from someone else being willing to lay themselves bare before you. In times where it can be very easy to detach from the art we consume, it feels like these are the type of songs that just draw you in close so you can understand just how it feels to be in that position.
Alien is an album that is out of this world. It takes Northlane to a new level and gives their peers a standard of emotional expression and depth that they would do well to acknowledge and appreciate at the very least. It’s an album that looks far enough back into the past and far ahead enough into the future to feel like it sits perfectly right in the here and now. It is, without a doubt, the bands defining moment and magnum opus. With Alien, Northlane have shown that they truly belong among the stars.
Alien is available now via UNFD.