Australian post-hardcore band Northlane surprised their fans and the genre when they dropped their surprise album Mesmer last week. This Beyoncé approach proved effective in terms of the promotion, but in tone, Mesmer needs more punch.
As if to be expected of any metalcore record, Mesmer of course brings some punch. It is brought in by the ominous, crunchy riff of 'Citizen' that kicks into a fast-paced explosion of an intro. The song proceeds into atmospheric verses, before the powerful choruses come in full force. As the rage comes back in during the first verse of the song, vocalist Marcus Bridge delivers a very progressive and haunting melody and delivery of the lines, chanting "A long way down and down this rabbit hole / If the tunnel runs any deeper / You might come out the other side of the world," reminiscent of fellow Australian rock outfit Karnivool. 'Colourwave' follows up with electronics taking a role behind the similar atmospheric and threatening riffs.
While this album undoubtedly brings some powerful moments, you can't help but feel like it needs a bit more punch. You get into songs like 'Savage' that start off pretty ominously and have a certain darkness to it, and you feel as if you're in for an epic ride. You get that to a degree, but there's something that feels like its missing. The guitars have a certain crispness to them to start with in almost every song but slowly lose that luster as each track progresses, leaving songs feeling muddy as they end. 'Render' has epic riffs throughout its playtime making it a really cool track, but there's nothing much to back all the great sounds as the song approaches its end.
The extremes of this album are definitely its most pronounced moments. Near the center of the record is 'Zero-One,' a brutal track that makes the most of everything the album offers. Clean vocals creep over almost black-metal guitars in the verses before chunky, low riffs back more aggressive ones leading into a piledriving chorus. It goes absolutely mental in the bridge, the entire song full of attack with fangs barred and all. It ends off epically, the high vocals sounding triumphant but ominous over the low pounding riffs.
Northlane certainly hit the nail on the head with the surprise factor on Mesmer, but not all the tracks feel up to standard. Many great moments slowly die out as each song burns out to their ends, the intense moments standing out few and far between without must consistency. Perhaps instead of dropping an album out of the blue, the focus could've been directed towards maintaining the sound instead of making each one a sprint to the finish line.
Favorite Tracks: Zero-One, Citizen
Least Favorite Track: Intuition
Rating: 75 / 100
Buy or listen to Mesmer here: