After their surprise release of Mesmer earlier on this year, Aussie metalcore heavyweights NORTHLANE have been on the up and up in the scene. At the time of writing they have just won the ARIA award for best album, only a couple of days after their performance at a packed Academy 2 in Manchester. We went down to get a slice of the action, with supports OCEAN GROVE, INVENT, ANIMATE and ERRA.
First up to the stage at early doors, before 7pm, were co-Aussies OCEAN GROVE. Having made waves with their experimental and daring debut record The Rhapsody Tapes, it would be interesting to see how their combination of metal, synth, hip hop and samples translated live. The main thing to note immediately when they took to the stage was their image, dressed in homemade clothes, with facepaint, even a pair of chef’s trousers – it was certainly striking. Their half hour performance went by without a hitch and, whilst only the first couple of rows knew their music, it was an encouraging response. The highlight came from their single Intimate Alien.
Crowd response kicked up a notch for American metalcore mob INVENT, ANIMATE. As this was their first time in the UK, the crowd was evidently split between people who had never heard of them, and those who had waited years for this set. Powering through an energetic set full of tech-metal riffs and huge, slow breakdowns, the pit opened up and have way to spinning arms and two-steps in abundance. All of this was greatly hindered by a painfully bad mix, with a booming, toneless kick drum trigger that muffled the lead guitar and shook the floor – but not in a good way. Despite this, hopefully the crowd response was enough to encourage them to come back.
The final support act of the night were the long-awaited djent innovators ERRA. Despite their success in the scene, with 2016’s Drift being universally appreciated by progressive metal and djent fans alike, this tour was their first appearance in the UK. The apprehension in the crowd was evident, with fans representing enough of their shirts to challenge even the NORTHLANE fans in the room. They took to the stage after a slight delay related to the bass amp. Launching straight into a tirade of hits from Drift, as well as older albums Augment and Impulse, each song was greeted with greater intensity from the first half of the room. Peak points of the performance were classic White Noise, with its choppy, staccato breakdowns, and their closing anthem Skyline, which received impressive audience participation. Unfortunately, the same drum kit was used by ERRA as INVENT, ANIMATE, so they too suffered from the Academy’s atrocious mix.
9:20pm heralded the arrival of the ever-cheerful Marcus Bridge and his masked posse onto the stage. By this point, the 1500-capacity room was mostly full, an impressive feat for a band of NORTHLANE‘s calibre. Their hour long performance was an understandably new-material-heavy affair, as they powered through new hits Citizen, Colourwave, and slow ballad Heartmachine, to name a few. The lack of variety in the old material may have bothered some, but Quantum Flux, Dream Awake and Dispossession all made an appearance to the delight of many – especially those in the pit. Bridge’s vocals were far beyond impressive – he is without doubt one of the most talented live vocalists in metal right now, achieving studio-perfect tone consistently through new and old material. The other star of their performance, as always, was Nic Pettersen’s effortless drumming. Injecting groove, technicality and aggression into every song, he really is the model form of tech-metal drumming at the moment. Finishing the set with an encore of Paragon, the closer of Mesmer, they ended the night on a high, having demonstrated that metalcore is not a dying genre – quite the opposite. This gig went to show there’s a new era beginning for progressive talent, with NORTHLANE at the figurehead.
Check out our photo gallery from the night’s action in Manchester from Stephen Fallows here: