Believe (the band’s independent label)
Release: April 22nd, 2022
- Marcus Bridge – lead vocals
- Jon Deiley – lead guitar, bass, programming
- Josh Smith – rhythm guitar
- Nic Pettersen – drums, percussion
Originally scheduled for release on April 1st, 2022, Obsidian, Northlane’s 6th full length album, was pushed back three weeks due to the supply chain issues currently effecting to world. Two years in the making, Obsidian will be the first album the band will be releasing through their independent label, Believe. The album was self-produced by the band themselves and recorded at Chris Blancato’s Studio in Sydney, Australia.
Clarity opens Obsidian with an almost trippy childlike synth pop lullaby intro before smashing head first into Marcus Bridge’s guttural growls. I’m hoping that this is the track they choose to open their set’s on the U.S.A. tour this summer. Extend the intro and lull the crowd into a sense of stillness before ripping us out of their comfort zone. “Pull me to the shadow,” Bridges demands during the bridge. Clarity is also the longest track on the album, clocking in it at nearly 6 minutes.
Clockwork, Echo Chamber, and Carbonized follow. I won’t linger too much on these tracks as they’ve been release already as singles for the album. While unchanged from the current versions available, they’re still solid tracks that will get the fans bouncing.
Cutting into Abomination, the band is experimenting with some new sounds and samples. “Re-emerging as a monster, an imposter.” Bridge’s sounds pissed and is coming to grips with the Abomination he admits to having become.
Plenty, which was one of the first tracks the band wrote for Obsidian, quickly became the standout track for me. Lyrically the track is about pessimism and looks at the idea of reincarnation, but I think it goes even deeper than that. In a recent Instagram Q&A, corresponding with the release of Plenty as the album’s 3rd single, vocalist Marcus Bridge elaborated on the inspiration behind the track.
“As we watch the world deteriorate day by day, it becomes harder to see a way out and begs the question: ‘If I was to start again from the beginning, if I could have a fresh start, would I take that opportunity?’ At this stage, I’ve had plenty.”
Compared to the rest of Obsidian’s tracks, Bridge ranks Plenty a healthy 6.5/10 on the Heavy Meter.
“This was one of the very first songs I wrote lyrics for and it flowed fairly naturally. It was written at a time where I was feeling incredible anxious about life, touring, and everything in between and I wanted to describe and explain those emotions. The vocals barely changed from the original demo, just some minor tweaks in the studio. Some of those original vocal takes even made in into the final version.”
Is This A Test begins with an intensely dirty bass riff before throwing a sonic curve-ball and shifting into an EDM-esque dance-rock mash-up. Not my favorite track on the album but as I listen to it I’m imaging an acid trip induced light show.
If you’ve been a fan of band since their early days, you will find hints of the classic Northlane sound laced into Xen, and Cypher. The gritty bass-lines and pounding guitars whipped up with hints of electronica. Cypher could easily be played at a Matrix inspired cyberpunk Discotheque, or moshed to as the strobe lights flash and pop.
As Cyhper fizzles out and fades away, the symphonic dreamy beats of Nova kick in. Bridges sounds at peace and content as the pieces fall around him. It’s nice to be reminded that he has an amazing singing voice and isn’t just a tight ball of pent up anger, growls and screams. Imagine a musical counterpart to Sleepless but less lyrically traumatic and more upbeat and bouncy.
As we round the corner, with the end of the album in sight, Inamorata is a song that I want to hear live the most but in an arena setting. “You drained my lungs of water so I could breathe. My ankles locked in concrete with broken feet.” The lyrics inspired by Bridge’s mother, father, or childhood are always the most musically epic. The song just sounds massive, like it belongs in the closing credits of a billion dollar movie. Bridges vocals are strong and couple perfectly with the crashing guitars and synth undertones. No one part of the song, whether its the drums, guitars, bass, or vocals needs to fight or compete to be heard.
The album’s title-track, Obsidian, is packed with thunderous drums, churning guitars, and Bridge’s growls. Title tracks can be tricky. Obsidian is loud and brutal, but its not loud for the sake of being loud. There’s a level of strength woven into those heavy chords.
Dark Solitaire closes the album in a stunning way. While Bridge’s claims he’s “circling the drain” he still can’t say goodbye. Another heavy cut on the album, the aptly titled Dark Solitaire feels a bit foreboding and lonely, especially when Bridge’s screams “I’m still searching for myself”. The anxiety of the past has certainly welled up to a boiling point, but we’re left not knowing how that frustration is finally released.
With Obsidian, the band continues to evolve and experiment with new sounds but maintains that style that has drawn so many of us to their music. The introduction, and subsequent evolution of digital textures have also altered how the band writes and records material. “Back in the Singularity/Discoveries days, the textures were done with leads and clean ‘guitars’,” Bridge explains of the albums released prior to his joining the band, “and now my choices for sound have expanded.”
The entire production value of Obsidian is off the chart. The precision put into each track, each note, has the laser focus that few bands are able to achieve. While that throwback is in the DNA of each cut, there is also an element of keeping the album’s atmosphere modern.
That feeling of anxiety is something we can all relate to on some level and seeps into every track on the album. There’s also a sense of urgency held within each track. If there’s an overall theme for Obsidian though, its one of perseverance and hope that things will turn out better if we continue to push forward.
Now Bridge thinks more along the lines of what sort of sonic quality does he want to hear in a specific piece and works with founding members Jon Deiley, and Josh Smith to meet those goals. The band utilizes a mixture of synth, sample, and guitar effects in Inamorata, and Dark Solitaire to achieve that desired sound. Don’t expect the band to incorporate more synth into their music though.
“Mate, the guys would have my head if I even spoke about adding more synths into anything,” Bridge joked in response to an Instagram Q&A.
Northlane’s sound and unique style continue to evolve with each album. While the band took a definite shift in style with ALIEN, Obsidian is an amalgamation of the sonic perfection of their earlier days and the heavier style we’ve come to love from our favorite Aussies.