Australian metalcore band Northlane’s new album, Mesmer, is a sequel to Node in terms of both theme and sound. Continuing the overarching engagement with impacts and responses to the modern world and the technology behind it, Mesmer demands deeper listening and thought to be applied to its lyrics and motifs.
The album opens with its first single, Citizen, immediately kicking off the high-energy pace of the record. Fittingly, the first words spoken are the simple entreaty, “Save us.” Following tracks, Colourwave and Savage, amp up the futuristic vibes, with hypnotic riffs and tides of ambient sound, drawing us into the band’s world, which fits somewhere between everyday reality and a Brave-New-World-esque dystopia.
Powerful instrumentation and irresistible percussion instantly capture the attention, and the seamless way in which vocalist Marcus Bridge dances between clear, soaring melodies and the raw, gravelly sounds so dear to metal genres. The delicate balance of techniques renders the band’s sound more accessible than similar acts, in addition to infectious hooks that demand to be danced to as much as screamed along with.
There are certainly more melancholy tracks, such as Solar, but Northlane never leaves an audience listless, and any respite from the frenetic energy is brief. Render, for instance, features layers of sound that require multiple plays to decipher, and create a huge sound. Vermillion seems to have a more direct social message, “life’s agony / turn off the machine / let me leave this world with dignity” and a more personal vibe. Whether an explicit reference to the euthanasia debate, or chiefly a metaphor that fits neatly into the wider scheme of the record, the narrative elements of the song do represent a slight diversification in song-writing for the group.
Northlane does on this album what they do best: critiques of society and modernity, ranging from angry to despairing, but overwhelmingly determined. Thick with commentary and allusions, Mesmer is a highly cohesive piece of art and a delight to listen to. While it doesn’t come across as particularly adventurous, the record more than redeems itself through rich production and crisp lyrics.
You can listen to Mesmer below: