Keep It On Wax: Northlane – Node 7-inch Vinyl Boxset
Calling all audiophiles! This one’s for you. The vinyl revival is well and truly upon us and now’s as good a time as any to raid your parents’ collection and dust off the turntable. Stay tuned for our verdicts on the latest and greatest pressings.
7-inch Clear Vinyl Boxset
It took about three full listens. Three listens of the album in its complete form to really get what Northlane were doing on Node. It’s a grower, this one, but when it grows, boy does it grow.
However, Node will no doubt be divisive amongst the die-hard fans of the Sydney quintet, whose heavier djent-mosh roots catapulted them to international acclaim. If 2013’s Singularity was the son of Discoveries, then Node has to be the great-grand-nephew once-removed, and fans who’ve stuck with the band since the Hollow Existence EP-era will see that this is a different beast altogether. One might even go so far as to make comparisons to Bring Me The Horizon – not for the music itself, but for the fact that their sound continues to evolve by leaps and bounds with each record. This might not be their Sempiternal, but it might well be their There Is A Hell…, the one that sees them taking brave steps into new territory as they test the boundaries of their compositional capabilities.
Influences that were previously much less overt, such as Underoath, Karnivool, TesseracT and Linkin Park, seem to take on a much more prominent position in Node’s sonic catalogue, all put through the Northlane blender. It’s a refreshing mix with just the right hint of familiarity. After years of writing and performing on downtuned guitars, the band display a more refined knowledge of how to (and more importantly, how not to) make use of the range and tonality of their instruments. The hard-edged guitar sounds of the past have been replaced with slightly warmer tones and more prominent bass – less aggressive yet somehow just as effective.
It’s difficult to identify universal standout tracks as different moments will no doubt appeal to different ears. “Obelisk” opens with a mosquito-drone of guitar harmonics that grows into a crushing groove; the opening chorus of “Animate” is uplifting and unforgettable; “Leech” begins calmly and builds to a devastating machine-gun breakdown with just the right amount of space between its panned chugs – one of the few classic mosh moments on a record much more focused on atmosphere, feeling, and depth than on sating their crowd’s penchant for pitting.
But no matter how much Northlane have evolved instrumentally, it was always inevitable that the vocals would be the most heavily scrutinised part of Node, with brand new frontman Marcus Bridge facing the unenviable pressure of stepping into the shoes of original vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes. And while of course we can’t speak for everyone, Bridge gets an A+ from us. His soaring clean vocals, at times richly layered in harmony or left tastefully unadorned, are showcased in full, demonstrating a knack for expressive subtlety and control, and his coarse screams – while perhaps not as heavy as Fitipaldes’ lower roars – cut confidently through the mix like a knife. This is an album that simply could not have existed in the band’s previous incarnation – Bridge’s voice is the perfect complement to their new direction and while Node may not please every Northlane fan, the potential to reach a whole new audience is astronomical, and this record stands as proof that it will take a hell of a lot more than a change of frontman to derail their creative force. Northlane are thinking so much bigger than what is expected of them, and in the process rendering futile any attempts to pigeonhole them. – Daniel Furnari – 4.5/5
WHAT DO YOU GET?
The set includes 11x 7-inch clear vinyl singles, each with a track from the album on side A, and the instrumental version on side B. “Nameless” is the only exception as it’s already an instrumental, however the band chose to leave side B blank.
Each single sleeve has unique artwork on the front – in the same geometric style and colour as the album cover – and lyrics on the back. The minimalist design and cool tones have been beautifully reproduced with rich colours that stand out against the black background, but maintain a soothing tone that fits with the ambient nature of the record.
The exterior uses a simple white-on-black raised wire frame interpretation of the original album cover, printed on a triangular pattern, adding a genuine sense of depth. Track titles are printed on the rear spine, with the band name above, and album title below. This overall minimalist, geometric approach looks wonderful, and makes for a standout package that’s striking but unassuming at the same time.
However, the artwork, which has been printed separately then cut and glued onto the box, hasn’t been attached with much care. The edges were rough and raised on our copy and the design was off-centre, affecting the artwork’s symmetrical design. The exterior looks great, but it doesn’t quite feel up to the standard collectors would be after.
HOW’S IT SOUND?
Node has seen a careful transition to vinyl, but that doesn’t fix what seems to be pre-existing problems with the mix. Granted this is much more prog-like than your average hardcore record, the mix emphasises this at the expense of the band’s core sound. It focuses in on ambient tones, reverb-heavy drums and clean, harmonised vocals while guitars take a back seat and screams have the life sucked out of them.
That said, the vinyl doesn’t add any extra problems. It never peaks, crackles or distorts and the bass translates beautifully to wax, adding a natural warmth that creates a solid foundation for the ambient tones to sit on. However, this does become too pronounced at times resulting in a light muffled sound.
Fortunately the instrumental tracks are a completely different story. It sounds like they’ve been completely remixed for the box set and they sound fantastic, with the perfect balance between prog and hardcore tones. Guitars have been brought back to the front, the pervasive muffle barely takes over and the volume has been pulled right back, giving intricacies in each track the opportunity to flourish.
You really come to appreciate just how good Northlane are at their craft when you listen to the B-sides, not just in terms of composition, but the emotional spectrum that their music is able to explore. There’s a subtle beauty to Node that’s somewhat buried under the vocals and average mix of the A-sides, and while the screams don’t detract from the music, Node takes on an entirely different, surprising tone without them.
If you’re a hardcore Northlane nut who’s on the hunt for every piece of memorabilia, then this is a no-brainer. But it’s also a great investment for fans looking for a different take on the album that, in some ways, sounds better than the original. The instrumentals alone are reason enough to buy this set if you’re already well-versed in the standard version of Node, as you’ll probably enjoy the experience of hearing proggy Northlane without the screams. This, if anything, should reinforce your love of the band. However, casual fans and those who haven’t crossed into a full-blown Northlane obsession, are unlikely to find any lasting value in the instrumentals.
Node is out now through UNFD.