It is certainly difficult to defend metalcore as time goes on. Less and less new bands are attempting to show ingenuity and redefine the preconceptions about the genre as a whole. Mindless chugging, tortured death-all-over-your-face vocals, and generic lyricism are unfortunately just a few complaints lodged at the bands associated. The fact that some bands do it well enough, and provide their own take on the same old formula is mostly negated by bands that refuse to deviate from it. Northlane are a metalcore band hailing from Austraila, with "Hollow Existence" being their first release. One can certainly tell that it is a first try, given the deriative presentation of the music. Breakdowns are incredibly over-utilized on the 6-song EP, punctuated by clean guitars only when they are gearing up for another breakdown. The band is not inherently bad, as there is some technicality to be found, as well as a raw energy that will keep some listeners entertained. The main problem is shown here to be an unwillingness to abandon the start-stop littany of chugging in favor of more interesting song structures.
"Hollow" starts off the album with a breakdown and desperate deep-throated scream, and although one of the stronger songs, gives one an idea of what they are in for regarding the remaining songs. The vocal range of the frontman Adrian Fitipaldes is very strong, but the guttural lows that he chooses for the songs on "Hollow Existence" are too reminiscent of other bands (Emmure, The Plot in You, etc.) to not sound contrived and similar. The higher registered screams are intense and well-placed for the most part, with Fitipaldes giving the strongest vocal performance on second song "Keymaker". This is arguably the best song on the album, as the acrobatic riffing shows what this band is capable of. It is unfortunate, as there are flashes of catchiness embedded in this song, but one gets the feeling that sometimes the band forgoes more interesting songwriting for pure heaviness. The production on this leaves something to be desired, but that is something to be expected given that this is their first album. Lyrically speaking, this band does not deviate from run of the mill concepts that plague metal in general, which is another check box marked in the generic category. Overall, the similar song structures make the 25 minutes of this release seem much longer, and the plodding pace can only be attributed to the lack of creativity displayed throughout. Even with the dismal output displayed here, I believe that this band still has the tools necessary to release something original in the future that will play more to their strengths.