December isn’t exactly the month I would think of to mark shows in my agenda and I personally use this time of the year to go Christmas shopping then hide under the blanket with a cuppa.
But while most of the touring bands started taking their annual break at that moment, The Amity Affliction were in the middle of their huge headline tour through Europe, bringing with them Wage War, Stray From The Path and Northlane. If The Amity Affliction‘s success overseas isn’t much debatable anymore, we noticed that it isn’t exactly going the same for their fellow Australians in Northlane. If their popularity is – without any doubt – increasing worldwide and especially in Europe, it has to be said that there are conflicting views on this band within fans of this very genre. Most of the people we’ve had the opportunity to discuss with either love Northlane or find them extremely boring. Even within our team, opinions have always and still diverge regarding them. Which is why we decided to get yet another perspective, from yours truly, as someone who’s only started listening to this type of music relatively recently, someone who doesn’t know much about Northlane and someone who had never seen Northlane perform before. That way, we made sure we avoided any bias linked to our respective historical background regarding this band.
* * *
Playing right before the headliner is usually the coolest thing for a band sharing the bill with several others, but on the This Could Be Heartbreak tour, Northlane were also playing right after Stray From The Path and this is a challenge! If all the other nights were anything like what’s happened for us in Paris, then Northlane had the difficult task to catch the attention and heat up a crowd that has already lost half of its energy during the previous sets.
As the first song kicked in, I realized Northlane had the best global mix of the night, so far. Every instrument on Rot was perfectly audible, while Marcus Bridge’s voice was clear and in tune, which is rare enough to be underlined. So for the people who didn’t know the band that night, the best conditions were reunited to discover their songs properly.
Northlane proved ability to use the energy that came from their audience to give out a great and enjoyable performance. The band delivered a show that was captivating, with emotions flowing over the venue, thanks to the atmospherical aspect of their music. With songs taking me through all kind of different feelings, the only thing I was needing was to step back and listen carefully to every note that came from the guitars, then pay attention to the lyrics to finally start nodding and even head bang at times of increased intensity.
I didn’t find Northlane boring and even though I didn’t especially enjoy their music on record, their live performance couldn’t leave me unmoved. They are the kind of band that has a lot to give, as well as the ability to give a real rush of uplifting emotions, provided you let go.
So overall, I can understand that their records might sound a bit too linear at times, especially their latest, ‘Node’, which marked also a transition in the band’s history, with the introduction of a new vocalist and frontman and a slight shift in the sound.
Nevertheless, Northlane seem to know where they are going and what they want to do with their band. The control they have on their image as a band is undeniable and if you pay a little more attention, their sense of inventiveness shows as soon as they appear on stage. Last year, they surprised everyone when they started appearing dark-ish on stage, only wearing full black outfits, with black body paintings and even huge creepy black contact-lenses. But instead of sparking Internet drama and useless criticism, it’s only been taken as a conscious choice the australian band assumed fully.
Furthermore, have you heard about the ‘Equinox’ EP? Northlane worked in early 2016 on the release of a collaborative 3-track EP they wrote and recorded with In Hearts Wake. All of the songs on this EP involved all of the band members of both bands (there’s 10 of them.) You can imagine the complexity of such a challenging project, yet the final product isn’t bad at all. The bands even got to perform these tracks live (yes, the 10 of them shared the stage on a quick tour) and it says a lot about the way they handle their work as musicians and artists, and the way they fuel their creativity. Northlane‘s great sense of musicianship thus covers for their weaknesses and enhances their identity that is getting stronger and stronger. It is clearly an asset that serves them well. Take a look at the crowds they are playing to nowadays, especially in their homeland down under and see how far they’ve come.
Northlane probably isn’t to everyone’s liking in this musical landscape. However, whether you appreciate what they have to offer or not, there is no doubt that these guys are well on their way to bigger things.
Words : Jeb & Mary
Photos : Justine C.