ALBUM REVIEW: Obsidian (NORTHLANE)
ALBUM Obsidian // ARTIST Northlane
Dark, hard and glasslike; everything that the mercurial new album from metal mavericks Northlane encompasses, both literally in its namesake Obsidian and at every delectable twist and voracious turn of the group's sixth studio album, officially dropping this Friday April 22 via Believe.
There is nothing quite as exhilarating as witnessing a band in full control of their creativity, craft and convictions; for Aussie metal icons Northlane, their most recent album endeavours on 2019's Alien further solidified the staggering star power the Sydney group possess, snagging a third ARIA award for their pre-pandemic efforts, and signalling to the world that the Aussie heavy renaissance was well and truly still alive and thriving. And while the past few years certainly haven't been kind to the world or the music and entertainment industries, Northlane have emerged triumphant once more against adversity, with their sixth full-length album due out this week, packed full of searing ambition and technical precision - if that ain't enough to get you hyped, it's also the group's first ever self-released album.
While approaching album number six amid the hurdles posed by COVID-19, as well as the departure of bassist Brendon Padjasek, Northlane certainly have still managed to arrive in 2022 with their trademark tenacity and soaring sonic might. But where Alien left off, with its stark vulnerability and innovative heaviness, it's on the group's extremely anticipated new full-length that we see a distillation of a twelve year career, as well as personal and universal frustrations and experiences, and an electrifying foray beyond standard heavy music tropes. Put simply, Northlane's new album Obsidian is a masterpiece that fittingly challenges and complements the current state of the world around us all - and the end result is nothing short of volcanic and inescapable brilliance.
For anyone entirely out of the Northlane loop, your regular heavy band this ain't, with the band notorious for cleaving in unpredictable sonic flavours, including EDM, drum and bass and a cavalcade of melodic goodness. And while Obsidian carries those same hues in spades, the galaxy is the limit throughout the expansive album, exhibited and established perfectly on opening track Clarity. Kicking off Obsidian in razor-sharp fashion, Clarity bubbles with synths and skyscraping melodics alongside menacing brawn, with frontman Marcus Bridge inviting you into an extremely personal narrative, bringing his experience post-Alien to a heart-wrenching yet inescapably magnetic conclusion alongside the dizzying surrounds.
Following on, the trifecta of lead singles in the form of Clockwork, Echo Chamber and Carbonized will leave you simultaneously gasping for air and grasping for the repeat button, journeying us all through neon-ready instrumentals, salient melodics and oscillating walls of sound, with Bridge firmly casting between blistering ferocity and lush clean vocals. It's here most pointedly that the entire Northlane crew toy with the space-time continuum, existing equally in the aural past, present and future as they deliver some of their most (current) career-defining moments.
Next up, special mention goes entirely to Jon Deiley, taking on not only guitar and bass duties but also shaping the synthy, towering goodness throughout Obsidian via his role as principal songwriter, delivering an especially hulking outing on the percolating Abomination alongside the stalwart drumming of Nic Pettersen.
From bouncy ambience (Plenty) to infectious ragers (Is this a Test) and elegant, melodoc brutality (Xen), Obsidian continues its forward-facing ways on the distorted gem that is Cypher, marking yet another Matrix-ready anthem complete with chunky fuzz and atmospheric reprieves, centred around notions of reality and simulations (and don't @ me, but I preferred this track to the most recent Matrix movie).
While the breakdowns and beautiful chaos are plentiful throughout the album, up next: Nova marks a lush, ballad-esque pause in time, with sweeping orchestral flourishes underpinning a far more relaxed beat; think Massive Attack returning from a brief blip to the future alongside creamy vocals and some gentle, electronic warmth, and you've pretty much got Nova sorted before the chugg returns on Inamorata.
The album's title track kicks in as the penultimate moment for Obsidian, gifting some moody electro mayhem, with an utterly ballistic outing from Pettersen behind the kit and some crushing soundscapes that'll leave you weak at the knees. But hold tight because you'll only be entirely bowled over yet again by closing track Dark Solitaire; a glassy tapestry of juxtaposed melodics, swollen heavy bludgeons and some of the most scintillating vocal flexes as the entire group give it their all, bringing this dazzling opus to a glittering close.
For Obsidian, Deiley had revealed prior to the impending release that he had firmly steered away from "riff city" when conjuring much of the girth behind this endeavour, turning his head instead to more melodic pursuits in the process. Paired effortlessly with Bridge's dark lyricism and a clearcut shared vision for the band's vision across the board, Obsidian is an otherworldly outing that awes with its technicality as much as it plunges you entirely into another world.
With their storied success throughout their career to date, Northlane had very little to prove to the world on their sixth album adventure; but amongst significant personal revelations and the chaotic events of the past few years, Obsidian towers as a pillar of empowerment and scintillating execution, both for the band and anyone who ventures into the calloused beauty that lies in wait throughout the album. Obsidian is everything the world already loved about Northlane but taken to astounding new heights, and this is modern heavy music at its absolute finest from one of Australia's true standout elites.
NORTHLANE'S BRAND NEW ALBUM OBSIDIAN IS OUT THIS FRIDAY APRIL 22 ON BELIEVE.
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BY TIANA SPETER