This week marked the surprise release of NORTHLANE‘s new album, Mesmer. In early March the band had teased new material via social media, as well as releasing a new song, Citizen. On top of this, the song Intuition was released as (what was assumed to be) a stand-alone single in January. Having made a relatively strong name for themselves on the metalcore and djent scene since the release of their first album Discoveries in 2011, they have released two other albums after this and before Mesmer, Singularity in 2013 and Node in 2015. Node was the first album which saw the introduction of their new vocalist, Marcus Bridge – after original vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes left in late 2014.
Mesmer is undoubtedly a defining record for the new sound NORTHLANE were striving for on Node. Over its 44-minute runtime and 11 tracks, the band explore their range of ambient, dystopian, clean sounds as well as their signature groove-driven brand of progressive metalcore. However, the album has both its strengths and weaknesses. Highlights on the album come on tracks such as Colourwave, Intuition, Zero-One and Render, whilst the pace and groove of the album seems to let up slightly on tracks like Savage, Heartmachine and Fade.
The album begins with the track Citizen, the second single to be released just days before the album itself. The track opens with a strong bass-driven riff, leading into quite possibly one of the catchiest choruses NORTHLANE have ever written. The choice of Citizen as an opening track seems sensible as it demonstrates immediately two of the major strengths of the album, Bridge’s incredibly powerful vocals and the punchy, groovy rhythm section of the band, especially the way in which the bass has been pushed to the forefront of the mix of this album. The lyrical themes of this album are also demonstrated in this song – one of the weaker points of NORTHLANE’s song-writing, arguably. Ideas of knowledge, discovery and the metaphysical are all explored, as they have been on most of the previous albums also.
After Citizen, the pace is excellently kept up in Colourwave, an instant-classic NORTHLANE song that would be at home on any of their previous releases. “I am what I create” is the line that dominates the second half of the song, which seems appropriate for the band’s intention in the release of this album – a defining moment for them. Savage is less memorable than the first two songs, but nonetheless leads into the noticeably different Solar, a vocally-driven song upon which Bridge’s vocals are demonstrated excellently. Heartmachine, like Savage, whilst not being a particularly bad song, does not compare with some of the stronger tracks of the album. This becomes more noticeable as it is followed by Intuition, the first song released from the album and arguably one of the best. The song has the aggression and tone of songs such as Rot from the previous album as well as the heavy mix of the drop-tuned bassline that forms the foundation of the song.
Progressing from Intuition, the second half of the album undoubtedly shows itself to be the stronger half with the three songs Zero-One, Fade and Render, all three of which demonstrate a new, darker, dystopian sounding NORTHLANE, interspersed with moments of sonic euphoria, such as in Fade. Render delivers to the older fans of NORTHLANE moments of heaviness strongly reminiscent of their first album, an area that the previous album, Node, failed to deliver upon. Finally, the album closes with the two tracks Veridian and Paragon – both not quite as memorable as the previous four tracks, but nonetheless they close the album off well, maintaining the atmosphere of the previous songs.
Overall, Mesmer is a strong follow-up to 2015’s Node, building on its theme and tone, with high-points being provided by Marcus Bridge’s soaring vocals and the groovy, technical basslines of Alex Milovic. Unmissable for fans of the band and genre.
Mesmer is out now via UNFD.
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