Northlane – Mirror’s Edge EP


Australian chart-toppers, Northlane, are proof that modern metalcore can still be relevant. Their 2022 Obsidian album is already a classic. Are they a prog metal band, an alternative metal artist, an industrial metal group? Like Periphery, it’s difficult to pin them down, but that’s what makes them unique. The supporting artists they bring out on the road with them are perhaps a good indication of who they are, but Erra, Landmvrks and Invent Animate do not fill you with excitement. Could the company they keep stop them from reaching a wider audience?

If this sounds like special pleading that’s because it is. Northlane deserve to be heard by those that like extreme metal and those that like edgy rock music. But our job at Scream Blast Repeat is to look beyond the hype and ignore the baggage. Mirror’s Edge is a celebration of Australian contemporary metal and tells us much about where the boys of Northlane position themselves on the metal spectrum. Bringing in Ian Kenny of Karnivool to duet on ‘Afterimage’ is a collaboration many will relish. Here, a mighty distorted bass provides the main groove for the vocal lines to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for security. You can hear a definite Tesseract influence in the emotion of the chorus. What is it about this music that makes you feel like you’re walking in a world with a slower tempo as the only person with your eyes open to this phenomenon? Listen to the extravagant polyrhythm in the middle eight as the guitarists impose their will on the direction of the song. Everything is out of focus – slightly but still noticeable to the eye.

As a unit enamoured by English metalcore heroes, Architects, it’s inevitable that Northlane also draw some of their sound from the Brighton innovators. Cascading synths in ‘Miasma’ prepare the way for a Meshuggah riff to disrupt the flow with characteristic double-jointed movements. Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall roars his way through the guest spot like a goal-hungry substitute coming off the bench for the last twenty minutes of a football match. The guitar tone is bass-heavy and low enough to give you a chest cough, yet Northlane vocalist, Marcus Bridge, never allows himself to be upstaged.

Northlane discovered their true sound as early as 2015. Might we call them a metal band for the tastemakers that cannot admit to liking Linkin Park? ‘Let Me Disappear’ suggests this is the case. The vocals are gritty and memorable and always willing to lead the guitar rhythms rather than follow them. You can hear a strain of jagged industrial beats trying to break free underneath the distortion. By contrast, ‘Kraft’, is rap metal with djent action. Observe the misalignment of guitars and drums in the opening verse – a Northlane riff is like the main drop in a dubstep song.

Of course, we must use Obsidian as a reference point for the quality of this EP. In this regard, Mirror’s Edge is a worthy stopgap before the next studio album. Closing track, ‘Dante’, demonstrates that Northlane are kings of a chorus that can release the tension of the verse parts. Here, Marcus Bridge takes to the microphone like a man who can see the world crumbling before him. Why should he accept his fate when he can fight back? This is how you use tenor vocals in a metal song without sounding like a snowflake. Industrial metal posturing with a mechanical choreography is nothing new, but it sounds invigorating in the hands of Northlane.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 12/04/2024

Record Label: Self-released

Standout tracks: Afterimage, Let Me Disappear

Suggested Further Listening: Tesseract – Sonder (2018), Oceans – We Are Nøt Okay EP (2021), Architects – The Classic Symptoms of a Broken Spirit (2022)