Review Summary: Northlane's second effort not only avoids the much dreaded sophomore slump, but also proves the be one of the strongest metalcore releases in recent memory.
Music should always be more than just catchy, white noise lumped into three and a half minute chunks; music should be an experience to draw you away from the grind of everyday life. Each track ought to deliver with a purpose, a direction. Australian band Northlane’s understanding of this is clearly demonstrated in their mystical, dreamy second album “Singularity”. Northlane avoids the much dreaded sophomore slump by offering a refreshing, unique experience for any “groovy metal” fan, while still sticking to the sound that made “Discoveries” so fantastic.
This is still very much Northlane. “Brutal chugging and bending of the top strings, paired with ambient plucking and sparse high notes, solid drumming, Adrian’s unparalleled vocals and floaty cleans” could closely sum up their incomparably unique sound. Despite sticking to a fairly familiar formula, Northlane manages to create ten very individualistic experiences of crushingly powerful music. The clean ambiance and soaring lead guitars present in “Discoveries” have been made the focus this time. Pair this spacey sound with spacey lyrics and a theme seems to develop. Perfectly in line with the cover; backdrop sections of almost sci-fi-esque, Egyptian inspired and gloomy environments exist as the underbelly to this album, most noticeably in “Singularity” (the eponymous track equivalent of “Discoveries”) and “Quantum Flux”. While it creates an interesting mood, at times it feels forced. The lyrics are often-scatter brained and infested with pretentious metaphors, which occasionally work, but they can feel as if they were written by a high fifteen year old; seeking massive answers far beyond his short grasp.
But moving on from the broad spectrum of theme, individual members and components of the bands sound are stronger than ever. Rhythm guitars stick to the djenty tones and grooves branded in their last work, but sporadic behavior and rhythmic unpredictability preserve their shelf life and prevent them from growing stale through the album. The soaring high notes executed by the lead guitar are stronger than ever, and serve as the face of the aforementioned theme. They can transition from dreamy to downright creepy and ridiculously heavy with a second’s notice, often reminding me much of the mood created in “In Silence” by Thursday. I’ve always adored this kind of sound, and the fact that it is ever-present in such an altogether solid album is nothing short of a huge plus. Produced keyboards and electronic guitar-altering effects contribute to the sound also, most noticeably throughout “Quantum Flux” and the crushing zenith of “Worldeater”. Drums serve the rest of the audible arsenal incredibly well; they spice up occasionally run of the mill breakdowns with great style, and are very solid throughout all ten songs. As for the vocals, Adrian’s performance is delivered more or less the same as “Discoveries”. His lows pack a punch and his unique highs are as prevalent as ever. The airy, “squeaky clean” clean vocals are placed periodically throughout songs and their climaxes, but their style suits the overall tone of Singularity much better than Discoveries.
As for individual tracks, Northlane’s picked their singles well. “Worldeater”, the first song released from Singularity, is the most flat-out brutal song on the album. But unlike other recent releases in the genre (e.g. Woe Is Me’s “Genesi[s]”), brutality is not necessarily met by banality. The song flows well as it inches into a gorgeous climax of sound and a subsequent breakdown into crushing, organized chaos. “Quantum Flux” is a powerful song with astral lyrics, serving as the most apparent embodiment of the theme the theme I previously rambled on about. “Scarab” is probably the fastest paced song on the album, and a very fun one at that. A hidden gem that isn’t really necessary in the scheme of the album, but is mesmerizing nonetheless, is the title-track, “Singularity”. The creeping instrumentals layered with Terence McKenna in a manner similar to Ghandi in Underoath’s “Salmarnir” are irresistible. The song’s explosion into its apex is one of the more memorable moments in the album, and almost feels like a culmination of spirit and energy collected through the last nine songs being released in one huge rush. It will be one of the most overlooked tracks, being an instrumental, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
Northlane’s second album is definitely an excellent work of musicianship and sound experimentation with an underlying tone. But despite most of the non-singles being a bit more forgettable than the rest and the occasional forcefulness of the theme, it truly is an experience worth trying, if not buying.