Review Summary: Executive Officer Kane got off easy.
I'm not denying that Northlane have fought the good fight over the course of their career, but it's also pretty hard to not be caught up in the back seat success of the band’s slow evolution of sound that morphed Northlane’s progressive tinged metalcore into something relevant in today’s music discussion. Whether it be the Adrian era Northlane that most die-hard fans embrace as the defining sound of Northlane or today's Marcus led force, Northlane has maintained a safe standard to which each consecutive recording is measured. Despite this, Alien
is a poor showing of the potential this Australian band once offered. Alien
isn't just a shadow of a band's former self, it's a foreign and unwanted invasion of sound that blatantly borrows from all sorts of mainstream heavy music in the least desirable way. Frankly, Alien
shouldn't have got past the demo stage of the songwriting process. Northlane have placed too much value on personal life experiences and simply have failed to translate that to a feasible, at all enjoyable musical value. Alien
may mean quite a lot to these Aussies. Unfortunately, their new album isn't worth mentioning in any relevance to “good” music.
The band's efforts to bring back any respectable sense of its early days heaviness is instantly dissuaded by the ironically titled opener, "Details Matter” - it wasn't enough for Northlane to continue pushing on in a familiar vein of bore inducing metalcore - the outright bastardisation of overbearing industrialism left little room for the dull deviations to add up to anything other than what they truly are: an introduction to one of the year's worst metal albums. Despite the obvious attempt at blunt force fervor, the early signs of negligible songwriting press and suffocate the listener into a chug-along noise-fest that fights fully against Marcus' apparently failing vocal talents (the guy is almost nailing a perfect Smeagol impersonation). Northlane have become completely reliant on the low end nuances and (often) muddy tones of djent based grooves and while most casual first listeners would find this middle of the road, safe or acceptable in moden metalcore, it actually has the unintended effect of bludgeoning any amicable listener with worthless musicianship, dull tone landscapes and strained vocals. Northlane has devolved, far further than anticipated. Alien
isn’t groundbreaking, revolutionary or a positive start on a new chapter.
It doesn't get better from here. The brooding "Bloodline" chops whatever atmospheric values that were made in the opener and waters them down into a low-grade, half-assed interpretation of self-growth that takes Marcus' personal childhood struggles and desperately tries relating them to an underwhelming vocal performance. The lyrics (much like the rest of the record) drip with cheese of self-saving pity that doesn’t sell. "4D" falls to a lot of the same problems that define the rest of Alien
's run time. The madcap dash for sound evolution has left an overbearing foul taste of musical infringement that can reference any number of trending acts. Whether it be the not so subtle Nine Inch Nails/Rob Zombie industrialism (which wraps most of the album) or the so-called progressiveness that's found here, a la the Architects soundscapes, (notably that of “Freefall”) - just to mention a few glaring examples here, to some pretty basic genre stereotypes that simply underachieve throughout. There's just not enough here to warrant a release, let alone any credible standing amongst many better musical efforts. Any number of details
could have seen an improvement in the Alien
soundscape. Reign in the flatulent bass lines, add some body to the vocals, use a couple more strings on the guitar, find a decent amp tone or even work on a level of individuality within your music that doesn't borrow from genre hopping trends or piggy back off more successful acts.
The album’s second half has less appeal than the first. Northlane’s reliance on the a-typical breakdown forces yet more low-end, bathing the listener in more toneless, uninspiring riffs. It's a shame that Northlane have dropped what is clearly the worst musical effort under the band's moniker (whether that be the old line up or new). There was an expectation that Alien
would be yet another safe but forgettable modern metalcore release but instead has fallen woefully short. There's no saving grace, no glimmer of hope and no ambition. Tracks like "4D" and "Eclipse" fail to make the intended impact simply due to strained, weak vocal passages, less than inspiring musicianship and a reliance on an industrial backdrop that defecates completely. Much like that flying little bastard from the original Alien
movies, Northlane latch on and pump a few noxious beasties down the throat of the listener… only to kill them with it later.