Review: Northlane at Talking Heads, Southampton

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Sydney-based metalcore heavies Northlane gave a sound performance to a sold-out Talking Heads; the last show of their UK tour in promotion of their latest release Node. This, the band’s third full length album, has been intensely popular with Northlane’s fans and the excitement was plain to see as gig-goers queued down both sides of the small Southampton venue.

First to take to the stage were melodic hardcore punk quintet Hellions, also from Sydney. Their performance was infused with a good amount of energy as fans steadily trickled inside to stand and nod along with what you might refer to as generic hardcore – the classic ‘tortured boy’ vocals punctuated with angry half-screams over rapid, if not very inspiring, guitar. Percussion-led changes in tempo were nice and broke up the increasingly monotonous thrum of the bass and rhythm guitars, though lead guitar worked well in the background adding pleasant melodic elements to the set. There was even a circle pit at one point (by which I mean four teenage boys running around in a circle). Microphone clarity wasn’t great and the occasional beat was missed, but overall Hellions gave a good introduction to the night’s entertainment.

Following first support on a dimly lit stage came The Acacia Strain, who launched into a feverishly energetic set of vein-bursting ‘doomcore’. The rhythmic chugging of the Strain’s slow, brutal guitars percolated the air of the Talking Heads, bouncing off the walls and through the floor as frontman Vincent Bennett flexed his vocal capacity, displaying an excellent range in what is without a doubt one of the most violent forms of metalcore scream techniques in the scene today. The heavier music was greatly appreciated by the crowd who, only three songs into the set, had already begun to jostle and push in the pit. The movement continued in the centre-crowd area as The Acacia Strain started to draw together a very well knit-together set.

Main support act Volumes began their performance on a similarly dark stage and whipped the audience into a frenzy of action almost instantly. They were the perfect band for the job, blending electric groove-driven melodies and anthemic singalongs with the kind of technicality and precision one might find in Northlane’s early work. As a compliment to the main act Volumes were second to none. The flavour of technical guitar found in the opening tracks became more pronounced as the set went on, deep smooth bass being permeated by melodic dances across the fretboard of the lead guitar with airy, ethereal synths working in the background. This combination of musical elements in a live setting was absolutely sublime. Rounding off their set with fan favourite track ‘Edge Of The Earth’, Volumes fired up the crowd nicely for the main act.

Northlane came on stage after a slightly over extended sound check, but the audience remained unperturbed as they jumped into their set feeding off the excitement created by the previous support bands. Crowd movement and surfing was the order of the day right from the get go. Vocalist Marcus Bridge’s clean vocals were fantastic, at times even bouncy and artistic with backing from synths of the same quality. Second song of the set ‘Leech’ was the first of many tracks pulled from Northlane’s most recent album Node, which has proved a fan favourite in the charts and in a live environment. Following this came the smash hit ‘Rot’ accompanied by a good deal of movement down in front and an emphatic chorus of chanting voices for the main bridge. Halfway through the set came a Northlane classic, ‘Quantum Flux’, which fired up the crowd into a broiling sea of bodies under strikes of white strobes. Things were going swimmingly, but as the band brought the track to the close guitarist Josh Smith leapt from the stage. There was a bit of confusion as some sort of a scuffle moved outside, but Bridge did well in keeping the crowd entertained during the unexpected intermission. Northlane released a statement the following morning saying that a security guard had grabbed a crowd surfer and pulled him by the scruff of his shirt to the side with his hands around the young man’s throat (for more on this see here). Nonetheless, Northlane continued with their set once Smith had returned to the stage, powering through a good mix of old and new tracks including ‘Impulse’ and ‘Scarab’ to end the evening on a high, despite issues with the security.

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MA English student at the University of Southampton and alternative music correspondent for The Edge.

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