4 August 2015

Northlane - Node

Welcome to the latest round of cover roulette! Regular readers of this blog will know that every now and then I review an album based solely on the cover.  The band in question on this blog are Northlane and the album 'Node';  I like the image of the triangle here, it is very symmetrical and beautiful - it is so simple, but complex as well.  Northlane hail from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and have been going since 2009.  Taking their name from a song by Architects, this is their third studio album; now I will also state that whilst I do not judge a band before I hear them, the photo I saw when researching them did make me wonder if they were going to be all hipster style over substance.  I know that when I look back at some of the band I liked back in the day, I have a sinking feeling inside; lets just say the image of the band goes against the image of the album.  But this is not the blog to talk about fashion and such things, this is a blog to see if 'Node' is another hidden gem picked up on a random bases.

Starting the albums is “Soma” and it begins with a wall of feedback and pounding drums.  The scream vocals are very reminisce of Dillinger Escape Plan and Meshuggah, but in the mix is a hint of Linkin Park clear vocals as well.  It is as if Tool held a conference and as picked a few bands from nu-metal and mathcore to join them on a new journey.  It really should not be working, but it sounds interesting and I am not reaching for the skip button; the mixture of sounds is good and I would be lying if I did not admit that I preferred the heavier sections of the song, but it is still an intriguing opening song.  “Obelisk” changes slightly to be a combination of shoegazing, nu-metal and desert rock; the screaming vocals sound at odds to the song on this one to be honest, the clear vocals work a lot better here and their descent into Tool territory on here (the bridge to the middle solo really is Tool inspired) is really good.  Lyrically it sounds as if the singer is on a journey and everything is falling away from what he knew – once more it is a good track, but I am still in two minds with it after repeated listens.  We are two tracks in and whilst the music is good, they have not settle on a style as it keeps moving and I have a feeling this might be a pattern for the album.  The third track is the title song – “Node” and this song is about wanting change but the person cannot be the catalyst for this evolution and humanity is in danger.  It is a very big idea lyrically, musically it is 80% Linkin Park + 20% Meshuggah (imagine if they joined up and did a mash up of Crawl/In the End by LP and Electric Red by Meshuggah).  I really should not like this song, the style is not to my usual tastes in many ways – but they have pulled it off and it works on many levels.  It does match the ambition and the song is infectious.  Well played Northlane, well played.

“Ohm” does not quite match “Node”, it feels a little rushed in places and as if the band are catching up with themselves at the beginning of the song.  As it moves on, it goes into the shoegazing sound again mixed in with metal (a bit like Exxasens with vocals – that is a good thing) and it starts very strong; but it does have a messy beginning, however it does sound epic by the end of the song.  “Nameless” is a short instrumental track which is very heavy on atmosphere; it is also a song which could have been expanded out for a bit longer and looped, but it ends far too soon to be anything other than a filler and sadly too short as well.  Following on is “Rot” and once again the band are very heavy with the atmospheric rock side of the musical repertoire; it does have a heavy dose of nu-metal in the mix, you cannot help but hear bands such as Incubus & Linkin Park in their sound in places; but once the vocals become heavier, it has just hints of that mathcore/Meshuggah side to their performance.  It is all very gentle to me, even when they are showing their anger and the song becomes heavier; because I know in a few seconds it will go back to the almost ambient sections of the song – it is an interest number, but I am not sure if I like it or if I would rather have not heard it.  It is one I have pondered more than any other song on the album and to be honest I think I will for a while after I post this review, it is deep – but is it that deep?  “Leech” however is a song that I connected to straight away; the band are talking about the environment and mankind’s effect on the globe with our throwaway culture and the damage we are inflicting on the planet.  These sentiments are noble, but without a good tune would fall on deaf ears on this album.  The music is really good here, once again I cannot help but hear other bands in their sound; this time a mixture of Tool, Incubus and (once more) Meshuggah.  It is the best song on the album by a country mile, the fact it has a positive message is a bonus point here.

“Impulse” is next and whilst it does bring back the heavier element of their sound, by this point it is starting to actually counter-productive the atmospheric side of the band; it is ok to be a combination of the two, but there are sections on this song where it sounds like a train wreck with a drum beat that does not make any sense.  After the last song, this one is such a disappointment.  “Weightless” starts off slowly, the music drifts in slowly with the keyboards giving the only sound of urgency to the song.  Everything else takes its time, the melody is a very slow build and they take their time; it is this side of the band which is working the best for me as the album goes on and if it was not for “Leech” this would have been the song of the album.  The whole song is very in keeping with the rest of the album, very atmospheric and very thoughtful.  The penultimate track is called “Ra”, with the sound of backwards guitars interrupting the normal pattern of the music, the band are back in screamo mode and this time it is done with a focus and attack that is not just aggression for the fun of it.  It is another song which cannot fail to impress me, it took a while to sink in (I will admit that) but once it had its hooks in then there was nothing I could do about it.  Another stunning number from this band.  Ending the album is “Animate” which goes for epic, but does not quite reach those ambitions.  It is a good song that covers every side of the band very well, but it does not quite reach the highest of “Ra” and “Node” in terms of emotion or performance; however the bridge/solo towards the end was very good.  It is well performed, but it feels like a weird song to end the album on.

This album is a little frustrating to be honest (and it is nothing to do with their fashion before you say anything).  Musically I found that the conflicting styles of the band were not merging well in places and as such it has a very hit/miss feel about it.  In some places when they sound be more atmospheric, they are going for their best Meshuggah impressions when they could have had the same result with some clear vocals and vice versa; some songs could have done with a few more loops to let them breath and sometimes they went in a direction that took the song into an interesting place, but did not follow up.  However, there is also songs on here which have been stuck in my mind for a long while after they stopped played, I love it when these guys start to go more prog, more atmospheric and it is in these moments when they sound as if they are in the middle of a trip that they truly fly.  I have gone backwards and forwards on this album more than anything else I have so far this year.  Mostly I have known by the end of an album after a few listens, but this one is an enigma to me and it usually turns out that albums I cannot put my finger on straight away are ones I return to more often.  But for now I will definitely say this is a good album, but I cannot say it is a great album as it could have been more if some of the songs were given more time to grow; I will follow their activities and see where they go from here, there is a more to this than is immediately apparent.

7.5 out of ten – This is good and worth checking out

Top track - Leech

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can view the Northlane page on UNFD here

You can follow their activities on Facebook here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

You can stream the album on Deezer here

You can stream the album on Tidal here

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