A Novelist are certainly one of the more unusual bands in the metal scene, first forming in 2009 via the duo of Alex Bambineaux and Ben Nugent with a relatively simple goal: To form a death metal band.
Nevertheless, it dawned on the duo that they wanted to do far more than simply death metal – they wanted to explode the minds of people with a blend of technical death metal, prog metal, and ‘prog death’ metal. Their sound draws upon many musical influences and throwing them into a sonic blender to include extreme metal influences, prog rock, blues, and hardcore and burst onto the scene with their ‘Portraits’ album at the end of 2015.
It has to be said that A Novelist’s sound are certainly anything but dull, and their musical efforts are certainly geared around changing and challenging musical norms – and the release of ‘Folie’ is no exception.
Building upon their debut album, tracks such as “Exteriors” demonstrate further twists and turns to their music with even more clean vocals and bizarre time signatures that upon first spin are initially attractive and compelling – the listener would immediately think of some strange hybrid that involved a scientific experiment with Ne Obvlisicaris, Obscura, and 36 Crazyfirsts with some “…core” suffix influences thrown into the mix.
“Tombeau” is an incredibly fast paced track with spiralling, dizzying guitar riffs that can make for an uncomfortable listen for some people but then you have tracks such as “Apparitions” which are melodious; luring you into a false sense of security before diving back into the deep end at a million miles an hour.
“Strangers In The House of Auto-da-Fe” has a lot of variety going on, that seems to come across like a death metal version of The Mars Volta if the band ingested massive amounts of Colombian marching powder whilst staying up for 3 days straight listening to Obscura and Death albums on a loop; then “Acacia Crown” comes along throwing a Hammond organ in the mix for a bit of a giggle.
With “Caveat Lector”, further diversity is demonstrated with Jazz influences where the track takes “a bit of a chill pill” from breakneck riffing with a saxophone break, descending into full on guitar shredding weirdville with a dichotomy of clean and growled vocals. This sounds great on paper, but there are distinct problems for some listeners who may find the album as a collective whole a bit too much to digest.
A Novelist – ‘Folie‘ Track Listing:
1. Folie Noire
5. His Kingdom is Vast
6. Strangers in the House of Auto-da-Fe
7. Acacia Crown
8. Caveat Lector
9. Stockholm Blues
11. Learning Paralysis
Whilst the production of the album is extremely good, showing all the instruments in the mix in a perfect and easy to interpret manner – it often feels as if A Novelist are “trying too hard”. Granted, it certainly can’t be argued that they’re top tier musicians and are exemplary at what they do – there’s a fine line between excellent musicianship and demonstrating how great you are to the world as a whole, versus writing songs that engage the listener.
Whilst A Novelist are extremely good at what they do, the more cynical among you may perceive the band as an exercise based on musical willy waving and “Which musician will suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome first?” – akin to the likes of listening to Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Steve Vai et al.
The album may have been better if it floated around the 40 to 45 minute mark, but just under an hour can make for quite an exhaustive listen. If you’re into bands such as as Between The Buried and Me and similar artists, who also relish technical death metal with a strange twist will find much musical solace in listening to A Novelist – but there will always be an equal majority out there that think such bands are pretentious as hell, and a step too far. The sonic equivalent to avocado toast, and just as divisive.
- A Novelist - 'Folie' - 6.5/106.5/10