Produced by the band themselves and recorded at Chris Blancato’s Studio in Sydney, with the exception of Marcus Bridge’s vocals which were recorded at Sydney’s Electric Sun Studios, “Alien” is the fifth studio album from Australian Titans Northlane. Having surprise released their previous effort “Mesmer”, this time out their label UNFD have taken the usual more measured approach and we’ve had a build up of singles before and to bolster those all important pre-orders by giving us a taste of what is to come.
Marcus Bridge starts things off with a gutteral roar as “Details Matter” kicks in. It’s programmed Drum n’ Bass backdrop against a pummelling down tuned riff has an immediate modernized Nu-Metal vibe that continues across the album as a whole. There are moments that hint at early Slipknot in the beats department and there are obvious parallels to a slowed down version of what Vein are doing. “Bloodline” is a huge success. It’s anthemic chorus line “I was raised in Hell, I made it out by myself” is an instant sing-a-long moment while Bridge strikes a perfect balance between the clean and unclean vocals. The cold synths give a “The Downward Spiral” by Nine Inch Nails vibe to everything while the Guitars break into digitisation after a some big chugs. The programmed underpinning of beats and synths of “4D” has a Prodigy quality to while an underpinning of Gloom inspired bass lines and some savage unclean vocal breaks gives what is essentially a Metal dance track a crushing edge. The guitar solo is a thing of beauty and actually a surprise in a track of industrial anthem quality. The big bass drops are choice.
One of the pre-released tunes “Talking Heads” continues the Nu-Metal introspection with lines like “I refused to take the Medicine to escape the mess I’m in”. It’s a pile driver of a tune with a slow DJent groove and Bridge giving a fine impression of insanity throughout. It has an ugly beauty to it that brings something like Alpha Wolf or Dealer to mind, but without their high tempo energetic delivery. Going bigger on the clean vocals and brighter on the guitar work “Freefall” could be a Linkin Park track in places. Bridge rap screams his way across a couple of sections while the chorus has that Chester Bennington influence. It’s programmed industrial underpinning it something that has clearly been heavily invested in for this next chapter of the bands existence. “Jinn” has some really effeminate vocals passages from Bridge that come as a polar opposite to some of it’s more glass shattering unclean edges. At times it’s like there is a monster that is wrestling to get out as the cold Industrialisms play against the Gloom and DJent but everything is balanced on a knife edge. “Eclipse” has 80s industrial roots and perhaps points at Ministry, MarilynManson or even Rob Zombie as being an influence. There is glorious tempo shift patterning to the track that works surprisingly well and it’s easy to see how any of these tunes could be a floor filler in a club or indeed as the band take it live to stadium sized venues and festivals. The starkness of “Rift” has a shoegazing quality as Bridge talks about not being afraid of the void. It’s programmed beats and synths have a controlled energy but it lacks any tempo shifts or the big breakdown section that it needs to turn it into something more.
Bringing back the guitars “Paragdim” has some interesting moments with a couple of really big juicy chord shifting DJent inspired grooves while burying some of the vocals into the industrial distortion. Bridge makes full use of his vocal range and it’s a fine addition to the album. The first of the pre-release singles “Vulture” is very much a tone setter that the album as a whole. It features all the elements that go into it all rolled into one tune. There is a fair amount of DJent inspired chugs that provide a dark energy while it’s bounce and flow are second to none. Bridge might feel like “It’s me against the World” but the audience would disagree. The Jazz backdrop of “Sleepless” with its high tempo programmed drums and aching piano makes it a trip-hop tune or sorts while the vocals are beautiful and yet pained. Bringing the guitars in and killing the programming off, save the Jazz, saves the tune from being a Pop song that sounds completely out of place unless it’s the B-Side of “Rift”. The Gloom riff part actually feels like a mistake because it’s so big and ugly compared with the rest of the tune.
So there you have it. Northlane have left behind some of their more technical elements and DJentisms as well as anything you might call progressive to create an album that is soaked in industrial Nu-Metal with bits and pieces of Gloom and DJent in places. Sometimes it works really well with some impressive anthemic tunes leaping out but at other points it lacks any killer instinct. The vocals are a pleasant surprise with a return to more uncleans but the lack of much guitar that isn’t in a thicker guage maybe the elephant in the room [7/10]