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How Northlane Harnessed Negativity to Find the Light

Marcus Bridge talks a hopeful horizon for the heavy favourites


Kane Hibberd

“Hopefully, this is the turning point for something more positive and even more expressive and expansive…”

Marcus Bridge smiles as he talks about Mirror’s Edge, the new record from the Australian heavy favourites Northlane

The first collection of music from the band since 2022’s Obsidian, their new six-track project charts a period of frustration, reflection, and a change of mindset within the band’s chemistry. With an overarching theme of acceptance threading the material together, Mirror’s Edge is the type of EP that should get Northlane fans excited for what lies ahead for the band as they anticipate their next album chapter.

“I think it was an interesting chance to explore different sounds,” Bridge ponders. While there are nicely formed moments on Mirror’s Edge that harken back to previous Northlane records (notably 2015’s Node and 2017’s Mesmer), this EP rejuvenated Northlane to embrace the new, too.

“Moving forward, it will hopefully send us somewhere new that we haven’t been before,” Bridge says. “It’s nice to touch back on things that we maybe haven’t thought about in a long time. It’s exciting doing the EP, knowing that the process can be a bit quicker and we can get into the next thing a lot sooner.” 

Built on a foundation of striking textures, a push and pull of energies that range from vicious to contemplative, this is music that culminated following a much-needed creative retreat Northlane embarked on in August 2023. 

While the successes of Obsidian – ARIA and J Award nominations, not to mention their second ARIA #1 album – should have spurred Northlane straight into a fruitful and inspired new period of creativity; instead, the band found themselves needing to face the tension and communication issues that were simmering beneath the surface. 

Tackling their issues during a retreat to the Yarra Valley, they were able to achieve clarity and understanding where both had been lacking before. “It was really important for us to do that, to separate ourselves from our comfortable places and also just be together,” Bridge says. 

“When we’re all separated and trying to work on music, stuff can be miscommunicated; the tone might be misconstrued. Even with that, there was so much stuff that was just me or someone else thinking, ‘This is what this person wants…’ and not actually just communicating and asking, ‘What’s going on? How can we make this work for everyone?’

“Particularly for Jon [Deiley] and I, there was a communication breakdown that needed to happen, where we were just open and communicated how we felt about everything. We found a middle ground where we were able to work comfortably, and where we were both happy with what we were doing.

“We weren’t feeling like anyone was being cut off. For me, I think the whole process of going away together, opening up and being honest, was so crucial. In the end, we’re a family – we’re a bunch of brothers, we just need to chat about things sometimes. It’s as easy as that to get back on track. We all love each other and we just want it to be the best environment it can be.”

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Though negativity and darkness in terms of thoughts, attitude, and perspective have been grappled with throughout previous Northlane material, notably under Bridge’s direction as a songwriter, Mirror’s Edge is a conscious attempt to not become wholly enveloped by it all. Here, Bridge hopes to harness negativity in order to hopefully birth something more positive for the future.

We hear it in the arrangement of songs like “Afterimage” and “Dante”, two EP cuts that revel in expansive and vibrant structures. And then with the more brutal tracks on Mirror’s Edge, notably “Miasma” featuring Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall, Northlane never waver under the weight of their own sonic creation. Confidence and, ultimately, peace found in their process manifests beautifully here, testament to the band’s renewed sense of direction and Bridge’s own self-reflections as a human and, therefore, as an artist.

“With the last album cycle, it did feel quite dark and depressing,” he admits. “With this, even though it’s not purely positive, I do think it is a step in the right direction in working through some of those feelings of believing there is no hope. There was a conscious move, going into this… I wanted it to not be so straight up negative.”

“We took a dive into a lot of our older sounds from previous albums,” Bridge adds. “I think the things that stand out the most to me are the more Node or Mesmer-sounding ambient, proggy guitar sections, particularly on a song like ‘Afterimage’. It was interesting to go back and be able to reflect on our previous sounds; it was a lot more freeing to not think about what was coming next. We could sit in what we had already built up over the years.”

“Afterimage” and “Miasmia” are two moments on Mirror’s Edge where Northlane fans are able to hear the band in rhythm with two significant creative influences, both in terms of sound and musical approach.

“Miasma” serves as an exciting collision of electronics, metal and McCall’s signature brutal vocal, while “Afterimage” finds the band collaborating with Karnivool’s Ian Kenny – a track Bridge describes as feeling like “a tribute song” to the Perth prog icons.

“Honestly, it’s shocking that we’re at a point where we’re able to reach out to these people and they’re excited to work with us on a song,” Bridge laughs.

“For us, doing collaborations and guest spots, we don’t really do it too often. It is something we want to be intentional and special, not just a flash in the pan moment of a song. After being on the retreat together and talking about these songs, for ‘Afterimage’, Ian Kenny immediately popped out. It did feel like this amalgamation of all the different sounds we’ve had, but particularly the earlier Node and Mesmer sounds.

“I feel like all of that was quite heavily influenced by Karnivool. When I came into the band, that was everyone’s favourite band in Northlane! I think they’d just toured with them, and they were Karnivool addicts. They very instantly got me onboard and I was hooked. To have him on that song was a dream come true.”

For “Miasma”, Northlane found themselves in the unique position of pitching the idea of a collaboration at McCall before being on tour with Parkway Drive in 2023. Once they returned to Australia, the Parkway Drive frontman flew to Melbourne to complete vocals and tracking, ultimately creating a touchstone moment of the Mirror’s Edge project.

“I think Parkway and Karnivool are cornerstone bands for us,” Bridge says. “Parkway Drive, especially for heavy music in Australia. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do if it wasn’t for them kicking it off for all of us. And then Karnivool, that was a band that helped evolve the sound and the mindset of Northlane, in how we approach things. To have both these vocalists is mind blowing.”

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The early months of 2024 have seen Northlane come back swinging in a big way. Teasing out their new chapter with phenomenal stage shows that highlighted the hunger and resolve this music has instilled within them, they’re taking strides into a future that Bridge is optimistic and excited about.

The EP’s name itself, speaks to being on the precipice of the unknown – but approaching it with curiosity and hope. Bridge, whose songwriting and lyrical approach in the past has been rooted in darker shades of emotion, describes Mirror’s Edge as presenting a reflection he is proud to see.

“In my mind, hopefully it means the edge of something new,” he says. “On the border of something fresh. Even in talking about some of these songs, ‘Afterimage’ having the title track lyrics in it…it’s talking about the type of person I want to be, in a very loose way. 

“As we move forward, especially post-Obsidian, I just didn’t want to be so negative anymore. I want to hopefully be able to channel some positivity back into my life, that will then translate itself into music. I don’t know what that will look like. I guess as time goes on, I’ll just have to be learning from experiences and finding new ways to express myself in music.”

Where are Northlane heading next? Album seven? Bridge is unclear, but if Mirror’s Edge has proven anything, it’s that the band’s vision has never been more cohesive. In the ability to look back at the sonic journey that has brought them here, acknowledging the challenges and their ability to overcome, the band can look forward to an engaged and spirited next phase.

“It’s what I hope to leave behind,” Bridge says, as discussion turns to the idea of legacy through music, albums as portraits of artistry. 

“Even if it is something negative, I hope it just serves as a reflection of that period of time, and hopefully we can look back on it and see that even though it was a tough time, we were able to come through it. We were able to create something out of it, take that negative energy and turn it into something somewhat positive. 

“In the end, it’s all about capturing each moment in time and moving forward; hopefully, you either grow from it or you can leave it behind.”

Northlane’s Mirror’s Edge is out now.