Is the man part machine or is the machine part man?
Mesmer, Northlanes beautiful new album, represents both sides of the equation. The bands most organic yet precise album yet, it covers familiar topics but renders them in a new way, at once paying heed to the bands heaviest roots and looking forward to an unwritten future. It is the fullest and most accurate expression yet of who Marcus Bridge (vocals), Jonathon Deiley (guitar), Josh Smith (guitar), Alex Milovic (bass) and Nic Pettersen (drums) really are.
The abiding theme of Mesmer (produced by David Bendeth) is magnetism between all living creatures, something which has its roots in the psychedelic experience and which has been percolating within Northlanes consciousness since the bands inception.
That Mesmer is stalked by death - closing track Paragon deals explicitly with the loss of a close friend, while Veridian and Fade are also intimately concerned with bereavement - makes its rhapsodies on life all the more joyful. Colourwave is a love letter to the act of creation itself, while Citizen turns the bands most political statement yet into a plea for unity and Intuition links personal struggle with a wider responsibility to those around us. Mesmer is human to its core, and that humanity runs from the bone marrow of its lyrics to the very way it was created.
Writing began in a familiar fashion as 2015 drew to a close: Jon grinding out riffs at his laptop alone while Josh wrote new lyrics to develop the themes of Node, the bands third album, both their first with Marcus and Northlanes first #1 on the ARIA chart. But without any conscious discussion as to why, the bands writing process slowly evolved. On previous albums, lyrics and music would be composed independently and then brought together in the studio; now words and sounds bounced spontaneously between Jon, Marcus and Josh. This continued throughout 2016, and a stint between legs of a European tour writing at the bucolic Ghost City Recordings in Bavaria, Germany bore further fruit.
Spending a week in the German countryside cemented the feel of Mesmer, both lyrically and musically. In September, Northlane did something else new: flew to New Jersey to let a third party get under the skin of their songs in a way theyve never done before.
That someone was David Bendeth, a producer with a track record (Bring Me The Horizon, Paramore, A Day To Remember) that appealed because he could get right into the guts of the music and make Northlane the most compelling version of themselves possible. He and Jon oversaw Mesmers gestation from a few ideas that shot back and forth over email into a man-machine organo-digital beast.
What emerged from the studio is Northlanes defining statement. And presented to their fans in such an unorthodox and exciting manner, Mesmer, and the first radio single, "Citizen", will echo worldwide through 2017 and long beyond.