Who is Northlane?
Northlane is a Metal band from Sydney, Australia which formed in 2009. They have four full length albums (Discoveries, Singularity, Node, Mesmer). Jordan and I will take a deep dive into their sophomore album, Singularity, which was released in 2013. One thing to note is that the members of the band have changed over the years. The biggest change would be the original vocalist, Adrian Fitipaldes, left in 2014.
Here are the masterminds behind Singularity
Vocals — Adrian Fitipaldes
Lead Guitar — Jon Deiley
Rhythm Guitar — Josh Smith
Bass — Alex Milovic
Drums — Nic Pettersen
From the 30 second mark in the first song, 'Genesis', you get the full flight of what to expect from the rest of this album. Down-tuned guitars, mixed with tons of harmonics, layered with ambient cleans, at times blazing fast, and at others downright filthy. Coming out of the gate swinging like this does a lot to manage expectations and set the mood. Singularity still allows plenty of time for the listener to breath and collect their thoughts by placing softer, slower, and more ambient focused sections throughout. Bombarding the listener with a constant onslaught of chaos might work in a tech death song, but Northlane knows their audience.
The guitar tone is great as you can clearly hear the huge chords that are played, whilst not missing any of the massive low-end. Often, the guitar that is panned left will take on a variation of the riff being played by the guitar panned right, usually adding in dissonance, harmonics, or mutes. This left-right duality of the guitars is a nice way to shatter expectations of where the music will go, even during the more repetitive breakdown sections. The grouping of the notes in the breakdown sections are varied enough that it will take a few listens to get the pattern down right, but not so crazy that you cannot bang your head the first listen. The ambient guitars, if played alone, might sound like they drone on. In the mix, however, they add a ton of layers that contribute a very specific vibe to the sound. The guitar part of the album succeeds because of the harmony of the ambient and down-tuned parts. Either one taken alone, would not deliver such a great experience.
The drums are either backing up the guitars with well-timed kicks, creating blistering fills, or taking a backseat to let the other instruments shine. Earlier, I mentioned that some of the guitar parts require multiple listens in order to figure out the pattern played, yet you can still headbang the first time you hear it. This is all thanks to the excellent drumming subtly keeping the pulse of the music, yet allowing the organized chaos of the guitar’s rhythm to take the forefront. In the more ambient sections, the drums will start to build up and allow the listener to start building tension. Once the guitars come in, the tension is released and the sound transitions into a more heavy feel.
Singularity employs a vocal style that is mostly guttural mixed with yelling. Truth be told, it fits perfectly with the instrumental vibe. Most of the time, vocals and instruments stay out of each other’s way — each adding on to the overall sound. There are a few times where the vocals will dominate a section and just sucker punch you with chills and make you want to gurn. Perfect example is in 'Scarab':
“You want the fucking truth? So you want the fucking truth? The truth is we all suffer”
Northlane’s sophomore LP is one that is praised highly within the Metalcore community. The album features deep lyricism that is portrayed through an ancient Egyptian setting and an emphasis on paving your own path and being in touch with the world. The Egyptian theme fits well with the lyrical theme of the album as the Egyptians helped build the world we know today and were in touch with powers that we still are learning about to this day.
This opening track introduces the theme by questioning oneself. “How do I speak of what I see through my own eyes, without telling you that the truth you’ve known is all a lie?”
Everyone is taught how to live life as they grow up, but how do we know that what we are taught is truly what is right? Even while learning one can see for themselves how the world works around them, and this track wants you to question these thoughts and understand dreaming is more powerful and fulfilling that listening to others.
One of the highest praised songs on the album, 'Scarab' encapsulates the life and sound of Egypt through both lyrical and musical themes. The lyrics focus on a past life and being lost in time. Understanding that the world around you contains living pieces of the past, a past that contains an never ending amount of wisdom. Early in the song the idea of suffering becomes the focal point. Adrian's screams out with raw vulnerability, “You want the fucking truth? So you want the fucking truth? The truth is we all suffer”, which is arguably the most recognized line throughout the entirety of the album. He relentlessly echos the thoughts of suffering and being beaten down, and with those thoughts it brings everyone together, as suffering is something that everyone can relate to.
I for one love the imagery that the lyrics bring with the wind sweeping away the listener. This is completely up for interpretation (as is everything that I write), but I feel as if the wind is the words were told to live by, and how being told how to live a certain way can sweep us away into a life we did not want. The main point that Northlane makes here is to break the wind ('Windbreaker', duh), and this means breaking the mold and words formed by our peers. Breaking the wind is like breaking free to make our own decisions. A very strong concept portrayed through wind.
Although the entire album has deep lyrical meaning, 'Worldeater' is probably the first song to bring up a darker topic. “You think you see the world, I’ll tell you nothing’s how it seems” echos beautifully at the beginning of the track. The news, media, and social media can regulate how we see the world by hiding information behind stories that are truly irrelevant. Global warming, the insane rate that we’re burning fossil fuels, and the amount of trash collecting on our Earth are just some of the major occurrences of how we are killing the ecosystem. These should be more talked about, but yet they are hidden behind celebrity news, political turmoil, and sales of our favorite consumer items. Adrian uses his character to portray a scene of an ancient race coming to him and enlightening him on what we can’t see. The question we must ask ourselves is, will we listen?
Have you ever felt like there is nothing good in the world? Do you feel lost and led into life without shaping your own path? That feeling can happen to anyone, including myself, and most likely including whomever wrote this song. The calm blissful ambiance of 'Quantum Flux' attempt to make the listener feel more at peace. Happiness will never be handed to anyone, but as the lyrics infer, looking inside oneself and setting oneself free can lead to happiness. Happiness is there, you just have to allow yourself to feel it.
Fear. A strong emotion that can lead to making horrible decisions, or failing to make a decision. How many people live their life the same day by day without change? Is it fear that drives this? Why don’t we just do what we want to do when we want to do it? Fear of spending to much money? Fear of losing a job? Fear of failing at something? Fear leads to regret, regret from missing out on some of life’s best moments. Northlane vibrantly portrays the message to fight against your fears and live. Life is here and now, stop waiting and just do what you want to do. It might be scary, but it is worth it. “Wake up from the nightmare and become the dream”.
Although Northlane points out how there are so many flaws in our world, 'The Calling' is a lighter song that acts like a powerful voice to follow, this is a bit ironic since in earlier songs they speak down on following voices other than your own. The voice echos to the listener that it wants to spread light, rearrange the world, and create their own reality.
Singularity’s eighth song, 'Masquerade', takes a slight detour from the main theme to touch on something we all put up with, liars and those whom hide who they really are with an innocent persona. “The scent of lies is in the air tonight, we dance in a spell of lust, those eyes of yours I cannot trust” rings through the ears of the listener. The lyrics talk down on those who lie, deceive, and put on a fake persona. It is so easy to hide behind a fake you in today’s social media age. People tend to only post the things that make them look good, and this song calls them out. The song takes a dramatic twist though as Adrian states that he himself is one of those people as he yells “The worst part of it all is i’m exactly the same, i’m looking around the room, i’ll be the first one to blame.” Featured vocalist Drew York from Stray From The Path begs the listener to look within oneself and see if you are living behind the mask, and reiterates that no one can hide behind their path. The songs comes to a ending as Adrian comes in and says he will remember those who have put him down, as well as those whom have picked him up.
The album’s title track is an instrumental song with a twist. The song contains a powerful quote by Terrence McKenna. The quote follows the main lyrical theme of album, you know, the one about not only following what others say and do, but creating your own path. I won’t go into too much detail, because I think everyone should look up and read the quote on their own.
If the other 9 songs haven’t implanted the theme into your head yet, 'Aspire' sure will. As the ending track, 'Aspire', echos the cries of the entire album within one song. Pave your own path. Don’t be told how to live, learn how to live on your own. “No more excuses, no more complaints, leave everything behind, get up and live your dream.” Oh, and don’t forget to carve your own name into the Earth.
From the first 5 seconds I knew this was going to be a banger — I was not wrong. Singularity employs some of the finest Metalcore techniques in a tasteful way. If you like Metalcore and have not heard this album, stop everything and listen immediately.
Favorite Song: 'Genesis' -> 'Scarab' (Please allow me to morph these)
Perceived Genre: Alien-core
This album is one I grew to love in my early years as a Metal head. I have always been drawn to Adrian’s vocals as they add a entirely brutal and fresh element on top of the instruments. The passion and energy that he instills gives me goosebumps as he fluidly goes from growls to yelling to a state of soft singing. The ambiance is another major praise I give these guys. There are an abundance of brutal Metalcore bands (nothing wrong with that), but Northlane’s mix of brutal over ambiance sets this album in it’s own light.
Favorite Song: 'Masquerade'
Perceived Genre: Progressive Metalcore