After struggling to find their feet on 2015’s Node, pseudo-djent warriors Northlane have stunningly perfected their rebooted fusion of hyper-experimental prog rock and pit-churning metalcore. Instantly are guitars heavier and more restless – Josh Smith nails the rhythm section with temperate baritone riffage, but lead axeman Jon Deiley is downright f***ing remorseless with a 7-string. Mesmer offers the two a scopic canvas on which they wreak havoc: sepulchral bends flood the sullen “Intuition”, while “Fade” makes way for shimmering melodies and “Solar” shines with a wah-tinged groove.
In a lot of ways, Mesmer feels like a welcome step backwards in Northlane’s musical evolution – it keeps the soaring atmospheric soundscapes they explored on Node, but also reintroduces the cold and callous breakdowns that made 2013’s Singularity a bonafide metalcore classic. Too, cuts like “Veridian” and “Fade” dip into a louder, flashier alt-rock vibe that fits the band like a glove – it’s a cleaner sound than we’re used to, but never does that undercut their otherwise carnal shredding. Especially as they veer further into the arena scene, we can see these more energetic tracks forming the bulk of their live sets.
To that end, it’s worth staying put if Mesmer doesn’t get your heart racing at first: the band unwind more as the LP progresses, as if to gradually steer the listener down a rabbit hole of better and more interesting songs. It’s a first half marred by mundane and monotonous jams made up for effortlessly by a second half that expands upon everything Northlane have showcased in a storied half-decade. Aided by delicate synths and crisp, dynamic production (courtesy of genre icon David Bendeth), Mesmer presents the most confident, enthusiastic and, powerfully so, deafening Northlane yet.