Hands up who’s seen The Castle? You know, the most Australian movie ever. Apart from …
It’s only taken nine months, but at long last it looks like we might have unearthed a truly progressive metalcore record in 2017, and it’s come from the unlikeliest of places.
Musically speaking, the French metal community hasn’t been the shining light in the vast landscape of Europe. The likes of Gojira and Alcest have been impressive exports over the last decade, but the more hardcore oriented Novelists have been yet to truly assert their mark on the world stage.
Thankfully for the rest of the world, the band’s latest effort Noir should give their artistic take on a well overcooked genre some much needed air time. Split into four chapters signalled by four tunes in the band’s native title, L’appel du Vide, Les Nuits Noires, Joie de Vivre and A Travers le Miroir, these markers serve as changing points that explore different parts of the band’s broad musical palate.
Unfortunately, it’s only really in the opening half of the record that the band really allow their creative muscles to flex, with the dual sax and guitar solos on power ballad Monochrome and the carefully sketched melodic might of Under Different Welkins easily the most exciting and unique moments on Noir.
Not that things drop off after the first four tracks. Chapter two see’s things take a dark, djenty turn, true to the name of the record which translates simply to “Black.” A Bitter End allows front man Matt Gelsomino to move from his beautifully delivered tenor verses to guttural roars, allowing for some magnificent contrast. One moment things are carrying the listener over an ocean of enthral leads and melodies before plunging them into the depths of the deathcore hurricane swirling beneath the surface.
However, by the time the mildly experimental Stranger Self rolls around (throwing in a very forced hip-hop verse just to keep things interesting) it’s evident that when it comes to heaviness, Novelists come up short of ideas. Cuts like Stranger Self and the anticlimactic album closer Heal The Wound revert back to generic riff-recycling that plagues so many band’s in the genre.
What this band do best is build songs around a simple foundation. Case in point, lead single The Light The Fire, the robotic riffing providing adequate room for Gelsomino to drop the hookiest sing-a-long of the album. Likewise, Joie de Vivre, which opens the more emotive third chapter of the album, limits the china cymbals and screams, instead opting to showcase Gelsomino’s immense falsetto, on par with the best in the scene. This musical thoughtfulness and emphasis on the power of the vocal over the riff is what gives the standout songs their sense of character, a distinguishable feature in Noir’s sound.
Bar a few hiccups, listening to Noir reminds the listener how emotive music can be. A good vocal hook, distinguishable drum groove and cleverly applied distortion is all it takes to take the listener beyond the confines of Spotify into their own musical dreamland. Noir also succeeds in reminding the listener how heavy things can sometimes get, as opposed to desensitizing the ears with an all-out audio assault. Should have things ended with A Travers le Miroir, we would have an album of absolute beauty and cohesion on our hands. As it stands, Novelists have got the memo that odd-metre breakdowns can only take you so far, and allowing tunes to develop a little more slowly can reap wonderful results.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Under Different Welkins, A Bitter End & Joie de Vivre
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