Things are finally starting to look up for Northlane again. Since their 2013 sophomore release Singularity, they’ve had the arrow on metalcore’s hype roulette firmly in their direction. The departure of former vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes, however, seemed as though such lofty expectations would fail to be met. Fortunately, new frontman Marcus Bridge was quickly drafted in as a permanent replacement, and Node is the product of his involvement. The end product is that rarest of beasts – an Australian metalcore album that consciously attempts to do something different and is actually worth listening to.

Layer and texture play an equally important part as brutality in Node‘s sound, a welcome change from UNFD’s usual stream of beatdown-saturated Aussie getthafuckup-core. Djent and prog influences are weaved into the mix, and are done so with remarkable skill and dexterity. There’s a remarkable depth in the likes of Soma thanks to its more ambient passages, while Rot and Ohm manage to get the dichotomy between crushing heaviness and delicate atmosphere just right. Breakdowns are wisely kept to a minimum – throughout Node Northlane strive to achieve an originality of sorts without stooping to oft-maligned genre clichés, and it’s done so in an entirely convincing manner through refreshing shots of melody that run through the likes of Obelisk.

It’s something that’s maintained in the vocals as well. Bridge proves himself as an excellent frontman throughout, displaying consummate skill in both singing and screaming. Both techniques are used in almost equal measure throughout, with the likes of Leech soaring and crashing brilliantly. Node marks Northlane as one of the very best in the game vocally – whereas many of the genre’s big hitters seem content with the same rehashed scream-sing combination, there’s a boldness to Northlane that means they aren’t afraid to mix things up, and it’s done so with a great degree of success.

That may be the case, but Node isn’t completely without its flaws. It gets very formulaic as it draws to a close, with the alternating passages of loud and quiet becoming almost as tedious as metalcore’s traditional breakdown-saturated fare in tracks like Ra. There’s a similar feeling in the album’s longer tracks as well, with them feeling overlong and dragged-out, especially Weightless, which relies almost exclusively on clean vocals and, as a result, lacks a lot of the punch of the album’s heavier moments. It’s at points like this where it feels like Northlane are trying too hard to surpass the genre’s boundaries, and while they may do a fine job of avoiding any generic leanings, it still feels uncomfortable to listen to.

Regardless, Node is the album that Northlane had to come out with. Whereas it could have easily been over for them, their third full-length has seen them come back swinging with an album that not only lives up to insanely high expectations, but could see them become a genuine force to be reckoned with in metalcore as a whole. And as a band doing something original and exciting in a notoriously unoriginal and unexciting genre, that’s no mean feat.

8/10

For fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, TesseracT, Periphery
Words by Luke Nuttall

‘Node’ by Northlane is out now on UNFD.

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