Going through a member change for a band is never easy, no matter the role. It may be even more difficult if it is the lead vocalist. I had only just found Northlane when they announced the departure of vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with my listening to this band now … I had two new (to me) albums that I really enjoyed, and now would have a (actually) new album that would be different simply due to personnel. When “Node” dropped, I was hesitant. It was very different from “Singularity”, yet I could see the paths of progression. New vocalist Marcus Bridge had his own style, but it just didn’t hit my ear the right way. It would take a fair few months for me to settle into “Node”. It isn’t my favorite album, but I respect it. The band had to grow, and they were working with a new member and his unique talents to make art. Sometimes it works, sometimes it needs some polish.
There were inklings about what this album could be in the released singles, “Intuition” and “Citizen“. I enjoyed both of these songs more than anything from “Node”. They felt great. Again, not to bash that album, but their comfort with each other was much more evident. You can tell that the band had grown in their new direction and been working hard to make incredible music. Even as I type this, I am singing the chorus to “Intuition”, it’s so damn catchy. And then out of nowhere they drop the entire album. A complete effort and entirely for the fans that support them. I hadn’t even listened to it yet, but was watching the vinyl quantities drop on MerchNow until I splurged and bought all three variants of “Mesmer’, the 2xLP of “Singularity”, a 12″ and the 11×7″ boxset of “Node” (told you I didn’t hate it). I attempted several times over the weekend to listen to the album, but was delayed. I was finally able to sit down at work on Monday and listen uninterrupted. It was the most bearable Monday morning ever.
The sound of this album is great. The mix allows the drums to pound, the bass to punch, guitars to fill, and vocals to soar. As a bass player, I’m incredibly happy with the bass tone and how well it fits into the mix. There isn’t a single moment where I don’t hear it, and I love it. The way the guitars effortlessly switch between heavy riffing and distant leads and yet lose no space in your ear is great. The heavy moments are slamming and the lighter moments are spaced and airy, and every moment in between is filled with Bridge’s screams or superb singing.
The music of this album is, as the post preview states, perfect. Northlane found all the beautiful mergers of being the band they were with the vocalist Bridge is. The album is slightly heavier than “Node”, the vocals are more melodious, overall more driven and catchy. The dynamic shift of the drums from verse to chorus help add emphasis (and tell you where to headbang). The bass drives the verses usually, while the guitars trade between either a riff or lead. And the vocals are generally singing, but know just when to get rough or just flat out scream. Bridge works the lines between this masterfully. All of this I think is executed in the track “Zero-One”. It has possibly the heaviest breakdown on the album, and right after it one of the softest sections, and yet still after that: a soaring outro, with some beautiful singing.
Lyrically there are many themes explored. Bridge and (guitarist) Josh Smith write about overcoming strife and hardship, both as individuals and as a society, environmentalism, existentialism, and even an opus (not really) to Edward Snowden. The track “Paragon” is written for Tom Searle, recently deceased guitarist of Architects (UK), a band cited as an influence of Northlane. You can tell how much that band, and Tom, meant to them. Often cryptic, never without intent, the lyrics of each track match the flow of the music to a T. Brutal and up front when the music compels them to be, yet soft and almost story-like during the verses. I haven’t spent as much time with them as I would like, but when I sit down to play this on vinyl, I’ll be reading along. Early favorite lines:
“Time heals the wounds, it builds up strength inside. Facing the truth, there’s nothing left to hide.” – Heartmachine
“Wander. Question. Find your obsession. Knowledge beckons. Find your obsession.” – Intuition
“We wonder why our lives feel like they’re lacking meaning. We’ve stopped believing. This is just a ride.” – Render
The surprise drop of such a great album is much needed in a slow month of releases. Not only was I simply excited for new Northlane, but to have it given to me in such a manner made me all the more thrilled. The anticipation after single releases, the sudden album release, Monday morning’s play-through, and tonight’s spin on vinyl have left me mesmerized, and that’s exactly what Northlane wanted.