Northlane Look Back And Beyond On New EP ‘Mirror’s Edge’

the heavy metal band northlane posing on a pink and purple background

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Australian heavy music juggernauts Northlane have never been a band that stays in one space for too long.

Guitarists Jon Deiley and Josh Smith dropped djent riffs like mortars on their 2011 debut album Discoveries, with these explosions giving way to the more atmospheric progression of their subsequent albums Singularity and Node. Nic Pettersen’s drums went from ravaging to almost rave-ready on 2017’s Mesmer, and their dance music-infused evolution had them sounding like Parkway Drive fused with Pendulum. Things got even weirder on 2019’s Alien and 2022’s Obsidian, with vocalist Marcus Bridge’s soft croons and slicing screams creating an eerily extraterrestrial sound that’s as fiery as volcanic glass. 

So where does Northlane’s new EP Mirror’s Edge take us? Well, the only answer is everywhere. It finds them looking beyond the mirror, setting the tone for the endless possibilities of the future. They also take time to look at their reflection, exploring over a decade of creativity that has solidified them as a staple in Australia’s thriving metalcore scene. “We often work on a project and move on to the next thing or idea pretty quickly,” Marcus tells Junkee. “But with Mirror’s Edge, we could look back on all the things we’ve done, pick the parts that still resonate with us, and fuse them to create something new.” 

From Turmoil To Triumph

Starting fresh is a cornerstone in how Mirror’s Edge came to fruition. Following the release of Obsidian, the band fell into a time of inner turmoil. Outside of music and touring, they were spending their time separated from each other. “We all have our own home lives and stuff like that, and I think when you spend that much time apart communication can kind of break down, and people feel like they aren’t being heard,” Marcus explains. The solution? A retreat to Victoria’s Yarra Valley, where they were aiming to both write music and correct the band’s trajectory. “It was a crucial time for us, not only as a band but as a group of friends,” Marcus says. “But it resulted in a very necessary open conversion, which has removed any feelings of restriction when it comes to exploring different directions as a band.”

In many ways, the music of Mirror’s Edge reflects the Yarra Valley scenery that surrounded them. The gusts of atmospheric synths reflect the serenity of standing at Mount Donna Buang’s summit, gazing at the world around you from the peak’s lookout tower. The viscous guitar chugs encapsulate the menacing presence of Lake Mountain poking out the fog as you venture into the peculiar town of Marysville. Songs like ‘Let Me Disappear’ feel like trodding through tough, muddy terrain on the Lilydale Rail Trail, while ‘Kraft’ places you in the expansive eeriness of Warburton’s Rainforest Gallery. The common thread through all is the feeling of triumph at the end of these voyages, with the band unleashing massive, emphatic choruses.

It’s a contrast from Obsidian, which felt like being lost in a digital dystopia, unable to reach any point of clarity as the cyberscape leads you into a state of hypnosis. It was reflective of the album’s insular creation during the COVID era. “Going through those years of lockdown, I fell into a tough space, where I felt like nothing was ever going to change or be positive again,” Marcus says. “Getting back to reality, seeing friends, playing shows again, it all contributes to regaining more productivity in our creative process, and feeling grateful that we get to do this.” 

Channelling Catharsis

The further Northlane climb, the more insight Marcus gains as a lyricist. Across the band’s discography, particularly their last two albums, the vocalist has screamed with his heart on his sleeve, wailing phrases like “I can’t feel at all” on Alien’s ‘Freefall’, and “I can’t hide my shame” on Obsidian’s ‘Abomination’. He’d often arrive at a destination of nihilism, unable to find the silver lining amidst these soliloquies. Mirror’s Edge is the first time we’ve heard Marcus carry himself with an air of acceptance, looking back at the rocky terrain of his long journey and embracing it. As he howls “I can’t forget what I regret” on ‘Dante’, he’s not trapped in past mistakes. He’s using the learnings from them to propel forward. “You learn from the pain you go through, and moving forward is never about forgetting about the past, but learning how to process and accept it,” he says. “Writing these songs is hard because the meaning in the messages never truly leaves, but being able to process what I’m feeling with every song makes the result therapeutic.” 

Acceptance is often paired with a sense of catharsis, a feeling Marcus has struggled to capture in his songwriting before. It’s something he had hoped to achieve with Alien. “I think writing the songs on Alien was important because it was a process of me expressing things I needed to get out, but it brought up a lot of memories and other things within my family that I still feel guilty about,” Marcus says. Mirror’s Edge finds him toeing the line of intimacy and vagueness, using lyrics to both let out emotions and build a world for the listeners to explore. The world-building of this EP is never directly defined, because it’s up to the listener to find its meaning. To discover what lies beyond the mirror, we also have to look back; Northlane’s music is merely a companion. “I try to be less direct with my writing now, allowing things to be broader so that others can see themselves in it, Marcus says.” 

The Full-Circle Moment 

Mirror’s Edge finds Northlane returning to work with mega-producer Will Putney, their first collaboration since Node. Since going separate ways, both have been pivotal players in the evolution of heavy music. Northlane have experimented with creating pulsating electronic music, while Will’s signature crunchy sound soars on modern classics like Counterparts’ 2019 opus Nothing Left To Love, and Knocked Loose’s A Different Shade of Blue. It’s only fitting that this reunion happens to herald in a new era for the band, and for Marcus, it’s a full circle moment. “When we worked on Node, I had only been in the band for a few months, and I felt a little bit like an outsider still trying to learn the ropes,” Marcus says. “Now that I’ve been in the band for almost 10 years and have formed a relationship with Will, it felt like the perfect moment to work together again, and I think he was necessary for revisiting all the sounds we’ve explored over the last decade.” 

Overcoming the feeling of being an outsider is a victory lap for Marcus, especially given the unconventional way he became a part of Northlane. In 2014, after two critically acclaimed albums, then-lead vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes announced his departure from Northlane, and the band encouraged online auditions from the public as a means to find their next frontperson. When Marcus was eventually introduced alongside their single ‘Rot’, his stark contrast in style to that of the former screamer caused disarray within the band’s fanbase. Initial responses reflected a weariness, as evident in the comments on the band’s announcement, but they trudged on. The band’s current standing as pioneers in the ever-changing sounds of heavy music, and Marcus’ position as one of the best vocalists in Australia, make past critiques feel like a distant memory.

“When I initially joined the band I didn’t want to change it too much, because I came from a different musical background, and I didn’t want people to think that this soft-emo dude was coming in to change the band,” Marcus says. “It wasn’t until Mesmer that I felt comfortable inserting more of myself and my vision into the music, and I think learning to be comfortable with being myself in Northlane is a big part that’s led us to where we are, for better or worse.” 

There’s nothing linear about Mirror’s Edge. Over the EP’s six tracks, Northlane have crafted an open world, where the array of sounds knows no bounds, and the meaning behind every mountain climbed lies in the interpretation of the listener. It’s a place where you look back, and take learnings from all of the experiences of the past. It’s a full circle moment, where you take a second to appreciate the journey from the summit of your destination. At its simplest, it’s some cool ass dudes doing what they do best: making cool ass music. Now both the band and its fans look forward, seeing past the portal of reflection, and trying to anticipate what lies ahead. “For me, I’d like to get to a point where I can have more of a positive outlook, and really channel that in the music,” Marcus says. “Hope is something I struggle to have right now, but I know it’s something that I can achieve in the future, so that’s what I hope lies beyond the Mirror’s Edge.”