» Blog Archive Review: Northlane's Mesmer Tries To Surprise Listeners -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews, Streaming

Northlane 1Bands once considered djent are now morphing from the groundwork that they displayed in establishing the scene’s basics. The likes of Periphery and TesseracT have gone in their own, more progressive directions, with some acts pushing forward with new directions, such as America’s own Veil of Maya. Australia’s Northlane, however, has always been something of an interesting act. Since their second album, Singularity, the band seemed to form their own sound and mixed signature djent qualities with more focused songwriting and a larger sense of scale to their music. Following 2015’s Node, the band decided to drop their new album, Mesmer, out of the blue with little-to-no warning. Beyoncé style.

I enjoyed Node and thought then-new vocalist Marcus Bridge was an excellent addition to their ranks. However, I didn’t take too kindly to their split with In Hearts Wake last year, as I found it to feel like it wasn’t even a half-baked idea and seemed to be the leftover ideas from Node with In Hearts Wake’s vocalist featured throughout. Still, I knew Northlane were capable of making good music. One misstep was not a death sentence for the band, and the idea behind it was a clever one. Thus, giving Mesmer a chance only seemed fair.

Northlane 2Truth be told? It’s… alright.  Mesmer suffers from feeling like what should have come out between Singularity and Node, but never achieving exactly what it was both those albums did in the process. There’s some eclectic senses of melodies on display, in particular “Zero-One,” which may damn well be the most interesting and enjoyable song on the album. However, getting to that point is much like sitting through a high school play for your girlfriend at the time: she has good qualities, but she’s wasted as a secondary character, and everyone else before and after just isn’t nearly as compelling.

The first half of Mesmer is a sluggish one. At one point, I felt like I’d be at least half way through the album, but when I checked I was only on “Heartmachine,” which blends with the tracks the precede it to no sense of novelty. Opening track “Citizen” more or less establishes what the album is going to be like, which includes repetitive riffs, syncopated drumbeats, and a mostly clean vocal approach by Bridge.

Northlane 3At the very least, Mesmer is a good sounding album. There’s an impressive amount of clarity and feels cleaner than Node. There’s still a larger aspect to the sound present from the previous release, but it’s lost when songs feel very stop-and-go, along with the aforementioned repetitive riffs, which at times borderline on being very uninspired and cookie-cutter. Late in the tracklisting is “Veridian,” a extremely well produced song, but it becomes watered down with generic modern metalcore conventions and the most basic of the basic djent-inspired riffs.

Although I have much to criticize in how average of an album this is, when there are definitely moments where you feel the band reaching for something greater yet falling short of it, the album has an extremely well constructed flow to it. Tracks often transition into one another and, despite the songwriting hitting the brakes at some point, many tracks function better simply because it continues from where the last one left off. While not necessarily a concept album, perhaps Northlane should have taken the extra step and done exactly that.

Northlane 4Mesmer isn’t as bland as last year’s release, but Northlane aren’t on top of their game here. Fans who are dying for more will surely enjoy it, but at the end of the day it falls short at every chance it’s given. Aside from a stand out track or two (“Zero-One” in particular) Mesmer is under cooked and deserved more time on the fire.

Mesmer is available everywhere now.

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