Album Review: Northlane - 'Obsidian'

26 April 2022 | 10:53 am | Rod Whitfield

“This album is quantity AND quality.”

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The press release for this album states that if there is one word to describe these Sydney legends, it would be ‘resilient’. And they certainly are that, having overcome much adversity since their inception in 2009. But they are also consistently experimental and adventurous with their sound, and damned prolific. It’s hard to believe this is their sixth album in just thirteen years of existence, especially considering said adversity they have been through and the complex and progressive nature of their music.

No, these are not three-chord rock tracks that can be put together in an afternoon, they are complex progressive heavy songs with multiple layers and nuanced dynamics. And, this time around, there are thirteen of them, and close to an hour’s worth of music. It’s absolutely clear this band has put their heart and soul, their blood, sweat and tears and all of their creative and imaginative productivity into the creation of this album, and the results are nothing short of stunning.  Each track has been imbued with its own unique character, each track takes the listener on a different sonic journey than the last one, and each track manages to be strong and memorable at the same time.

This album is quantity and quality.

Yeah, sure, this is ‘metalcore’, if you are desperate for a label. But it’s metalcore plus more. Much, much more. It’s metalcore plus electronica (Clarity), metalcore plus industrial (Carbonized, which also breaks up the industrial grind with a sweet, soaring chorus), metalcore plus unsettling noise and ambience (Obsidian), metalcore plus pop (Clockwork), metalcore that’s dancable (Is This A Test). It’s also metalcore plus a sense of flair and adventure, a need to push musical envelopes, a compelling desire to smash through constraints of genre and convention.

And sitting dead centre of this maelstrom of sound and ideas is the versatile voice and dark, cutting lyrical themes of frontman Marcus Bridge. He truly is in scintillating form here, vocally and lyrically, his voice alternately stripping paint from your walls and soaring to the very heavens and his lyrics making you stop to consider some of the issues we face as citizens of the world today.

If a best track award must be given from this quality collection, it might be Echo Chamber. Starting out in highly accessible fashion, it builds slowly but surely to an outro that is one big, pummelling breakdown, with Bridge howling his lungs out over the top. Lyrically, it attacks the polarising and addictive nature of social media and the almost overwhelming role it plays in our lives, resolutely asking us if we would consider ‘turning it off’.

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By the time they hit their sixth album, many bands are running on auto-pilot, many have become happy and lost their edge, many have long used up their bottle of, as Jack Black puts it, creative rocket sauce. Not Northlane. There is every bit as much energy and creativity flowing out of Obsidian as there was on their first few records, and probably more.

This album is killer, get it now.