Australia’s Northlane have spent the last decade cementing themselves as one of the biggest names in Australian heavy music. Two time ARIA winners, they now look to expand on their tenure with new album, Alien. Putting forward their most personal and intense offering yet, Northlane will be looking to continue their mission of world domination, as Alien will likely go on to become known as their best work yet.
Alien opens with turbo-charged revving sirens, as opening track “Details Matter” immediately injects the listener with adrenaline. Piercing screams bump through the verses, alongside the atmospheric moody guitars. An enormously heavy chorus is followed by a brutal instrumental section that will shake the listener to their core. All of this comes across as so structured and deliberate, and flows in a way that every note played seems to belong exactly where it sits. “Details Matter” is aggressive, tough, and powerful, and from my first listen I knew it was already one of my favourite songs.
I love how the drums sound in this track, as even for the opening song it is already sounding enormous. Every high-hat hit, every snare hit, every cymbal hit, they all come across as equally prominent as every other instrument. It feels like it is mixed in a way where the instrumentals and meant to received at the same level as the vocals, where no one thing is at the forefront.
This leads into the first single released for the album, “Bloodline”. What could one say about “Bloodline” that hasn’t already been said? It is a superb track from start to finish. The verses utilise the darker side of vocalist Marcus Bridge’s talents, as he appears to sing with an added focus on emoting the intense meaning behind the lyrics. The chorus follows this as well, and its catchiness will stick in your head just as much as it will make you feel all the feels. I haven’t stopped listening to “Bloodline” since it came out, and that isn’t looking like stopping now. The clear nu-metal influences shine through in this song, and now it is noticeable how perfectly it fits the Alien atmosphere.
Track three is “4D”, which kicks off with some techno-type heavy-synth action, as it leads into a gorgeous uplifting instrumental intro. Lightly toned and dance-inducing, Bridge’s scream vocals interrupt this feeling, and bring the listener back down to Planet Earth. Fast drums and a raw sound work with the screams to up the intensity tenfold, leading up to the massive release of the chorus. Built perfectly, Bridge’s mesmerizing singing takes the listener above the clouds alongside the light and fast instrumentals. A beautiful technical breakdown is followed by the dreamlike bridge, that involves a rare echoing guitar solo. Usually few and far between in a Northlane track, this solo fits the atmosphere of “4D” perfectly, and it fits fluently with the rest of the song.
“Talking Heads” is up next. The toughness of it feels otherworldly, with this feeling coming predominately from the growl of the guitars that is a constant throughout the track. Bridge’s vocals are another highlight, as the near-whisper he produces for the verses gives “Talking Heads” an overall nightmarish feel. Read more on my thoughts on “Talking Heads” here.
“Freefall” follows on by adding to the digital and moody atmosphere of the album. Whirring inconsistently timed guitars feel enormous, as the technically sound riffs roll behind the enormous chorus. Bridge’s singing takes centre stage, as “Freefall’s” mesmerizing instrumental tones are reminiscent of their 2015 album, Node. One of the softer songs off the album, this doesn’t last for long. As “Freefall” ends, “Jinn” becames.
Coming out of the gates hard and heavy, “Jinn” opens with some of the harshest riffs of Alien. Killer screams roll with ridiculous drum fills and pounding bass lines, forming a sound of insanity. Mind shattering intensity keeps the listener holding their breath, until the chorus provides some relief with a short dose of harmonic vocals. “Jinn” hits you with a remarkably hard technical breakdown, and from then on locks itself in as some of Northlane’s heaviest work. A great time from start to finish, “Jinn” is a song for fans new and old, and will remain to be a definite highlight song of the year.
Opening with a guitar/synth based bounce beat, “Eclipse” keeps the listener on their toes. Providing a different look at the Alien sound, they manage to make a bouncy, almost partyesque beat, sound really heavy. This isn’t the theme of the entire song however, as a firm breakdown takes up a majority of the end of “Eclipse”, and is sure to crack some skulls.
Track eight is “Rift”. Smooth vocal melodies introduce the song while synthwave tones dominate the backings. The intensity rises very slowly throughout “Rift”, but maintains a fairly consistent atmosphere throughout. A nice transitional song, “Rift” holds its own as it in of itself is a very enjoyable and soft listening experience.
Alien continues to flow flawlessly, as “Paradigm” picks up where “Rift” left off. A catchy introducing riff and instrumental section leads into smooth singing vocals. Loud harsh screams take over, and kick “Paradigm” into a head-bob inducing chorus. Constant heavy guitars and bass maintain their prominence throughout the song, and ensure that the moodier atmosphere carries through alongside the catchiness. Powerful and gut-wrenching tones close out the song with an almighty breakdown, and adds “Paradigm” to the list of highlight songs from the album. A heavily catchy and heavily heavy good time, dear lord I can’t wait to hear it live.
The penultimate track is “Vultures”, which was released a good long while ago. On its release it represented a heavier direction for Northlane, now the rest of Alien is out, “Vultures” makes perfect sense. 3 minutes and 48 seconds of unrelenting instrumental heaviness, wowee. Bridge’s screams are crucially brutal, and are perhaps the heaviest they have ever been. I wasn’t sure in the lead up how “Vultures” was going to fit with the rest of the new album, but now it is here I can safely say it fits perfectly.
Finally we have the closing track, “Sleepless”. Opening slowly with piano and Bridge’s melodic vocals, it does a superb job of demonstrating the bands softer side. Adding in a prominent, yet not overwhelming, side-dish of a technical synth beat, it works well underneath Bridge’s vocals to hammer home the dreamlike atmosphere that this song appears to be going for. Building to an enormous instrumental release, an enormous section of uplifting instrumentals and mind numbing vocals takes the listener on one last mesmerizing ride, before tough purring guitars and heavy drums deliver the final parting blow. Following this is the final sections of Alien, which is made up of beautiful piano, and an incredible atmospheric sensation of emotion.
Northlane really haven’t put a foot wrong with this album. They maintain a dramatic atmosphere that is constantly added to throughout. This atmosphere results in an unrelenting blast of pain, frustration, and emotion, and is without a doubt Northlane’s most impassioned work yet. They work hard to make sure that every song transitions fluently into the next, and everything feels like it belongs exactly where it is. The production is flawless, and the way every single instrument sounds, is perfect. I think that for Northlane, Alien takes the best aspects from every album they have, combines them, and adds to them, and the result of all of that is their best album yet. It has been a treasure to listen to, and I think it is fair to say that this is going to take Northlane to the next level, and elevate them to being one of the most sought-after heavy bands in the world.
Alien is a treat from start to finish, and will impress fans old and new. Every band member has their chance to shine, with the drums, guitar, and bass, each sounding their very best. Alien is a case of the stars aligning in every way possible for Northlane, and has resulted in the best album that they have released. Make sure to listen to this ASAP.
The Ritualists – Painted People
The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music
After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.
“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.
“Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.
“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.
There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.
The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk
It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.
Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.
From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).
Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.