Northlane was a band recommend to me by a friend, who likes hardcore/metal much more than I do. Here I am listening to the latest release by Sydney band Northlane, from whom I have not heard a single note.
I’m jumping into this review after weeks of listening to mostly garage rock and classic ballads, so here we go.
The album starts with a short minute-and-a-half song titled Genesis, which could barely be described as an introduction. It fires right in, and I already know what this band is all about. While this sets the mood for the album, I also get the feeling that with its execution, it could possibly get even heavier than this.
There is no clear break between Genesis and Scarab. I am beginning to recognise some electric elements in these two songs, and they drive nicely into Windbreaker and Worldeater, two songs which have a greater musical depth to them. The lyrics come a little more to life, but I can’t really decide what sets the songs apart yet.
A nice range of dynamics is shown in Quantum Flux, and I am impressed with the development of the song, right from start to finish. Dream Awake has terrific guitar riffs and very sharp and powerful percussion. The vocals are also more powerful at this point of the album, and here is where I am beginning to feel the need to turn up the volume to really feel the energy in this track. Even when the vocals revert to clean vocals rather than screaming, I feel that it will dive back into the power that it opened with. A couple minutes in, the backing vocals provide support for what seems to be muted vocals. The guitar is worth noting at this point.
It’s a bit disappointing that the track didn’t build up into a powerful ending, but it makes up with a rather melodic exit, which is a surprise, but a nice change. The Calling bears a similar structure to Dream Awake, with its ending dragging out as the vocals quietly disappear in a muted fashion. It too ends rather softly.
Masquerade picks up with some powerful percussion, and the guitar really picks up here as well. The lyrics are rather explicit here and really add to the angst in this song. “I’m still exactly the same, I’m looking around the room … is it the end tonight? … I will never forget your faces, your voices…” It’s probably my favourite on the album purely for the guitars, the way such lyrics can be sung with what appears to be rage, but you can really feel some kind of emotional pain in this track. With only several mentions of the word “masquerade”, I’m liking the fact that the titles, so far, hide what each track contains.
Singularity serves as some kind of interlude to the album. In a documentary-style voice, we hear a short speech, introduced and supported by soft guitars, that hints at modern culture, and how the media disempowers society by giving attention to meaningless celebrity icons, feeding us rubbish news and information, and how important we are as people, and how even the smallest things can be important. On its own, this speech would mean as much as a rant written by an annoyed teenager on Facebook. But in this song? In this song, supported by this music, following a myriad of powerful tunes and placed between another two heavy songs, it is musically juxtaposed, but places so much meaning to the music around it.
You could call it subliminal messaging, maybe. But you can’t look past the fact that if you listen up to this point, Singularity makes you feel. It is impossible not to feel even a slight change of heart to the music after the track this album is named after.
With that, Aspire ends the album just as it started. It’s not as heavy as we felt it a third of the way through, but it’s left us the way Genesis introduced the album. This album surprised me. It got heavier, as I expected, but the mix of guitar riffs and the addition of some cleaner vocals and more electronic-inspired elements stopped me from hitting “stop” or “next”. It is an album I could definitely listen to again. It is not something I would recommend to everyone. But for its genre and its style, for a band from Australia, it is a strong, powerful record.
If you’re in Australia, make sure you grab your tickets for their 2013 tour because they are selling really damn fast.