Written by: TL on 04/12/2015 16:30:19

Novelists, from Paris, are a new group having recently joined the fray of the modern metal landscape with the release of "Souvenirs", their debut album which came out last month. With it, the band presents themselves as 'progressive metal', yet while there's truth in that, there's definitely a backbone of technical, somewhat djenty metalcore to their sound (as the times prescribe), which fans should be aware of coming in.

The album opens with "Inanimate", which commences with a bit of haunting piano, before getting down to some properly pummelling stuff, replete with double pedal rhythmic bursts and harsh, echoing growling that brings to mind Jake Luhrs of their American kindred spirits in August Burns Red. The battering escalates in tempo, intensity and djentyness on the following "Earth Grazer", which also keeps things harsh, with melody being a thing relegated to ringing eerily in the background while the focus is kept fairly chugtastic - the balance between harshness and melodiousness feeling similar to that of the often cited genre staples in Misery Signals.

The following numbers of "Gravity" and "Antares" demonstrate, however, that melody generally has a larger part to play in Novelists' soundscape than their two opening tracks would indicate. The former surges from a bit of tranquil, clean guitar melody, up to a fast-paced, fret-scaling signature riff that's immediately recognisable, and eventually the song provides the album's first clean chorus. Singer Matt Gelsomino shows more of a likeness to Mike Semesky (ex-Intervals, now Raunchy) in his vocals here, crooning out affectionate melodies with notes which, to one's relief, sound nice and believable, without noticeably exaggerated measures of digital touching up on it. Granted, if we dwell on the vocals, Gelsomino does not stand out as particularly diverse as neither a growler, nor singer, but the fact that he at least does both capably and believably helps inject welcome measures of dynamics and relateability into the band's soundscape.

Moving onwards through the album's twelve tracks, the record routinely strikes a good balance between the battering of tech-core and more neo-classical guitar heroics and melodic progressive overtones, making for an enjoyable back and forth between things you can pound your chest to, and things you can sing along to. The progressive nuances keep bands like Intervals (particularly on 2014's "A Voice Within") and even Denmark's own Ghost Iris as the nearer points of reference, but fans of things like Volumes and indeed August Burns Red will also likely feel more than welcome here.

Pointing out some areas for potential improvements, Novelists mainly show room to grow in similar departments as many of their ilk. Gelsomino has space to get better, as mentioned both as a singer and growler, but also as a lyricist and hook writer. Memorable choruses like the one in "Gravity" are more the exception than the norm thus far, leaving it mainly to the more plentiful riff signatures to make the deepest impressions for the album and to make the tracks stand apart as separate entities. Meanwhile, lyrics along the lines of "The Lichtenberg Figure" 's "Fuck it I'm done with / swallowing bullshit" make it hard to not want to quip about the band's literary choice of name, and while such directness is nothing fans of the genre are not used to, it fits weirdly with the otherwise seemingly high-minded soundscape.

That being said, "The Lichtenberg Figure" is still one of the highlight tracks of the record, particularly due to how well it works with its rollicking rhythm. It joins "Echoes", which arguably gets the closest to a breakthrough kind of hit track for the band, coming quite close to top shelf Killswitch Engage-type catchiness in the chorus melody, as well as the aforementioned "Gravity", as the best buoys for the listener's attention. Not that you ever drift away from "Souvenirs" entirely - the dynamics on it are too solid to allow that - but it is a typical metal record in the sense that there's a tightly defined overall sound to the album that does not vary too much across the twelve songs. A curve ball like the mellower, female-guested "5:12 AM" goes some way towards mitigating this, but this is only ever a hindrance in the first place, for metal bands when they need slightly stronger hooks and perhaps some more elaboration of the atmospheres in their separate tracks.

All things considered, "Souvenirs" is a professionally sounding and highly promising debut full length, however, which figures to position Novelists strongly in the European metal landscape during the coming years. It'll only be more interesting to see what they do to build on it.


Download: Gravity, Echoes, The Lichtenberg Figure
For The Fans Of: Intervals, August Burns Red, Ghost Iris, Volumes

Release date 13.11.2015
Arising Empire

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