Live Review: Northlane w/Erra/Invent Animate And Ocean Grove | Marble Factory, Bristol | 30/11/17

For many a Northlane die hard, March the 24th of this year is a date that will probably not be forgotten for some time. With no prior announcements, teasers or leaks, the Sydney tech-metal group dropped their latest album Mesmer onto the unknowing masses, inciting chaotic ecstasy and hysteria within the fanbase. Following on from that eventful day, Northlane have returned to our shores for a headline tour, bringing Erra, Invent Animate and Ocean Grove in tow too.

For a line-up primarily dominated by tech and djent inspired metalcore, Ocean Grove [6.5] opt to provide something a little more unprecedented. Whilst it still being early in the evening, the Melbourne based five piece entice the respectable crowd with their take on modern nu-metal. Whilst the genre itself is often regarded as a being a tad juvenile, the group inject a healthy dose of acid house inspired aesthetics into the mix. It’s an odd addition to the bill, but it works wonders and adds a sense of contrast to the rest of the line-up.

One of the most refreshing elements of this set is the fact that the group don’t adhere to the tacky archetypical elements of their respective genre, in fact they seem to make a conscious effort to reinvent the genre in a live set. Despite this, some additional polish regarding their live set is critically required. The aforementioned acid house elements need to be brought into the forefront of their live sound and their set is lacking the punch and impact their recorded material contains. Never the less, it’s an intriguing introduction to the night and a band to keep an eye on. Kudos to guitarist Matt Henley for performing topless though, despite the average temperature within the venue being slightly over absolute zero.

The first of three metalcore acts to appear tonight, Texas’s Invent Animate [5] are a more mundane affair. It quickly becomes transparent that a large portion of the group’s tech oriented elements are delivered via backing track. Whilst using backing tracks to present certain elements that can’t be performed live conventionally is normally customary within the genre, the slightly obnoxious way these are presented is distracting. Evidently, without any engageable personas being projected and without any unique edges to this group, it feels a bit run of the mill. Tech metalcore by numbers if you will, for the most part.

Yet, there are times when this group shows promise and moves into a more focused sound. Tracks such as ‘Naturehold’ and ‘Darkbloom’ present a more conscious effort by the group to display an original and engaging sound, with these tracks shifting from drifting melodies to crushing fretwork in a moments notice. This is further backed up by the fluid, yet skilfully focused drum work of Trey Celaya. However, whilst skill is clearly evident, they’re completely outshined by other groups on this bill.

In comparison, Erra [9] present the very best of what this genre can offer, bolstered by a stage presence that just bleeds confidence. Warm and appeasing, this is a staggeringly multi-layered and deep performance, with each individual layer being intricately crucial to the overall sound. Sweeping, swirling clean picking is interlaced with classic djent inspired pounding to create a sound that’s consuming as it is technically impressive. All of this is advocated by a set of musicians that are distinctively confident and comfortable in their abilities.

The clear, crisp contrast between their new material and the tracks found on their older releases is also a gratifying component of the set. Material from their most recent effort Drift takes a more sublime and dreamy form whilst material from their initial records takes form in pounding shifting brutality. Never the less, it’s an incredible set that completely disproves the claims that the tech-metal genre has stagnated. Going from sets like tonight, the band is bound for an impressive, illustrious career.

Whilst this headline run is labelled as the Mesmer Tour, tonight is much a celebration of Northlane’s [8] back catalogue as it as of their latest record. Opening with ‘Colourwave’ before dropping right into the Singularity hit ‘Worldeater’, current vocalist Marcus Bridge is still clearly capable of lively animating material released prior to his recruitment to the group in 2014. In fact, whilst the genre is known for it’s skilled vocalists, Bridge is evidently one of the most skilled within the scene, with his soaring highs plummeting to distorted, yet handled inhaled screams on a whim. This, backed with the delicate yet pummelling fretwork; a crucial element within their work, is a delight to behold and truly presents the vigorous energy and punch found within their records.

As the set progresses, the concentrated shifts and tones present within their discography become translucent. Recent offerings such as ‘Render’ and ‘Solar’ prove to be modern fan favourites, only the choice cuts from their previous releases are performed tonight. With bodies climbing on top of each other for ‘Rot’ to ‘Obelisk’ and ‘Dispossession’ being as crushing as it was when they were first included within sets years back, Northlane clearly are conscious on how to build a setlist; incorporating both new and old for fantastic effect. Finishing off the night with a hazing performance of ‘Paragon’ a track that perfectly presents their technical inspirations, the band have clearly left and continue to mark their dominating position within their scene.