So, the wait is over; everyone’s favourite progressive metalcore act NOVELISTS have finally released their brand new record Noir, at long last. With the Parisian quintet having gained so much traction in the scene in such a space of time, through their outstanding debut record Souvenirs, the build in anticipation for the successor has been definitively palpable, and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it.
Jumping right in, the first thing that really struck about this record before having even begun the first listen, was the total run-time, and the sheer amount of tracks. Souvenirs delivered us with a total of around forty-nine minutes of content (not including the two bonus tracks), and much to satisfaction, Noir has followed suit, boasting twelve tracks and spanning just short of an hour. This is a real statement of intent from this outfit, to ensure that the follow-up to their massively successful debut doesn’t underwhelm or take any half measures. Turning the attention to the sonic attributes, Noir gets off the mark in a manner that is largely reminiscent of the signature NOVELISTS sound, with the opening track L’appel Du Vide boasting everything we know and love from the band: a crisp and heavy tone, soaring clean vocals, and hard-hitting breakdowns. This being said, the album’s second track Monochrome is where we really see some true progression and innovation from NOVELISTS, with what is essentially a slow-paced vocal ballad showcasing sauntering grooves, and a series of solo instrumental sections, one from lead guitar, and two tasteful saxophone parts. Whilst remaining in keeping with what we know NOVELISTS are about, this is certainly something that bears elements of things we haven’t seen before from this band.
Another standout quality of this album is the simple fact that it contains everything we wanted to hear more of from NOVELISTS, but nothing else in particular; something that is rather difficult to complain about, whilst also preventing a refreshing feeling of perfection. It feels somewhat like Souvenirs part-two, in the sense that its a comprehensive collection of powerful and catchy choruses, crushing breakdowns, technicality in every area (particularly lead guitar), and near-perfect tone and production. Having said this, an element that helps to avoid this being an absolute truth, is the interesting choice of guest slots on the record; ERRA‘s very own Jesse Cash is able to create a truly epic feel with his clean vocals comprising the chorus section of Joie De Vivre, and in addition DVSR‘s Matt Youkhana allows Stranger Self to enter an entirely different dimension through the use of his hip-hop style vocals. This is without a doubt something that enables Noir to appear that little bit more diverse and inventive.
To make a brief final point, technicality is such a significant an aspect of NOVELISTS‘ sound that, were it not present, would leave the material feeling somewhat empty and flat. Luckily, the release of Noir has insured that this is unlikely to ever be a reality, with the level of composition and performance (particularly where the guitars are concerned) having been notably taken up a notch this time around. The guitar solos in particular are for the most part strikingly complex, well-composed, and well-placed, allowing certain songs and certain sections to really pack the necessary punch, with Monochrome and final track Heal The Wound being particularly shimmering examples of this. This is a feature that is of paramount importance for this album to have the impact that it does, particularly as the band have clearly opted to remove a pinch of the aggression, pace, and general heaviness that we saw from Souvenirs.
In summary, NOVELISTS‘ Noir very much represents a double-edged sword; on one side, the band have been able to deliver a body of music that is exactly as impressive and hard-hitting as the beloved Souvenirs, and is a record that should be nearly impossible for NOVELISTS fans to be displeased by. On the other hand however, the record fails to represent any kind of new chapter for this outfit, showcasing very little progression or innovation, barring a few minor details. Whether this is a bad thing or not is entirely down to the individual listener. Regardless, its clear that Noir is still a thoroughly enjoyable record in its own right, and to the band’s credit, they’ve still managed avoid being completely undermined by the success and reception of their prior effort.
Noir is out now via Arising Empire.
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