The beast that is metalcore has had a shot in the arm thanks to Northlane on Node

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People like to say “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, and that’s a pretty solid piece of advice to go by. However in music the opposite idea is actually quite helpful in sifting through the uncountably humongous amount of new and old artists to listen to. Sure. some quality artists fall through the cracks, but with some humble maintenance it generally holds true.

Northlane are a metalcore band from western Sydney somewhere, and they have a new album out, Node. The lead single off that, and the first to feature their new singer Marcus Bridge, was the charmingly-titled Rot. Huge klaxons rung, even when the song was muted, for many reasons.

Northlane Impulse

Metalcore, love it or tolerate it you can’t deny its monstrous presence in Australia. With a new set of vocals Norhlane are out to prove they’re the best on Node.

Seriously, watch the video with the sound off. The actual music isn’t needed to listen to the band. They dress (oversized shirt, skinny jeans) like a metalcore band and move as they play (bopping on beats, crabcore) along to the music like a metalcore band. The band name is a street’s name, and the grizzly title of their song is off their science-ly titled album.

The video for Rot almost has two million views. Metalcore is a pretty popular genre for whatever reason, but that’s still a very impressive number for any metal band, Australian or not. This may be a ‘looks like a duck, quacks like a duck’ scenario but if there’s buzz, you best follow the bees.

Northlane are labelled as a progressive metal band by some and apparently they’re inspired by all sorts. Karnivool, Incubus, Michael Jackson, DJ Tiesto, Fall Out Boy, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Living End all receive a tip of the fedora in various media by the five-strong band.

That impressive range of influences provides a strong contrast to the overwhelming boringness of the album. There’s some odd-time signatures and electronica tinges in all parts of the album, but really that’s as interesting as Northlane stagger into view as yet another by-the-numbers metalcore. Well, that’s not entirely true; they’re not just a by-the-numbers metalcore band. They’re a by-the-numbers metalcore band with some odd-time signatures and electronica tinges and it’s scary to think that tiny difference is good enough difference to get them two million views.

To be fair, bands don’t always have to reinvent the wheel and perhaps Northlane are quite good songwriters. That requires solid, well-written songs (think Khe Sahn or The Scientist) but those are hardly seen on this album either. In the metal department, apart from Soma there’s no real bangers or banging bits. Even then, Soma’s own momentum is nearly dead, buried and cremated by its very saggy middle section that seems to exist only for metalcore cultish adherence to singing/screaming duality that must appear at every opportunity.

Opposite to that on the ‘soft’ side are Nameless and Weightless. Both these tracks lack screams – Nameless lacks everything vocal being an instrumental – but prove semi-interesting points in the album as the band steps out of the metalcore bubble. Weightless though is a missed opportunity, as Northlane could’ve expressed at least the rock influences they profess to subscribe to. Bookended by Nameless and Weightless are a block of three songs (Rot, Leech and Impulse) that are obviously designed to be Node’s centrepiece. “Don’t let the world rot” screams Marcus Bridge, before band devolves to a half-time bash.

That’s pretty much how Rot goes, meeting the expectations set by the silent watching. The song is functionally more or less the same as Parkway Drive’s Romance is DeadLeech and Impulse on the other hand, are almost solid songs. Leech is quite pointedly political, addressing environmental degradation and destruction. It has fantastic lyrics in the shape of “Plastic oceans, plastic farms” but almost everywhere else in the song its message is a mess. Bridge delivers well considering he has to work with the lines “Like a Band-Aid on a broken arm”, random changes of voice and a peculiar attack on Peter Garrett.

Impulse has an incredibly catchy chorus, and that’s about it. The chorus’ words “So alone in a digital world” are more lifeless than Brendan Fraser’s Hollywood career, and alone would render the song similar if not for the choice of chords. There’s really not much to say about the other songs. There’s some screaming, some singing, some doodling on the guitar, some nice drum fills (seriously), a breakdown, and that’s about it.

Ten years ago, Parkway Drive released Killing with a Smile, which featured as the coming-of-age milestone for Australia’s metalcore scene. Since then the genre’s output has more or less stayed the same. Listening to metalcore bands is pretty akin to driving along a street on the city’s metropolitan fringe and going by repeating houses. Little wonder then that Northlane quite literally find their home in western Sydney.

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