Novelists is a young band from France that is releasing its debut album Souvenirs in a week. I happen to have read their name on annisokay’s Facebook page, as Novelists were on tour with them recently, but I had never heard any of their music until I decided to check out their first album.
First of all, I’d like to get two points straight: 1) Although Novelists are labeled as “progressive”, they aren’t a progressive metal band. Putting this label on a band of course depends on how one defines “progressive”, but a band isn’t progressive just because the members can play a sh*tload of notes. My friend and partner in crime Rob outlined this statement in his review recently, so feel free to check it out. As a conclusion, Novelists sound more like a technical metalcore band to me. 2) I’m not afraid to admit that I don’t dislike metalcore per se. Every subgenre has rather unspectacular and even really awful bands; I just feel that many of them play metalcore. Generally, I can only name three or four metalcore bands I really enjoy. However, I believe that truly great music has no genre. If an album sounds great, then let’s just leave it at that and don’t hate on it because it’s metalcore.
It’s true that the band couldn’t really impress me at first. The songs sounded pretty much all the same, just a few parts stood out and I just couldn’t get used to those weird vocals. But it’s also true that Novelists seem to have established a solid fan base that really appreciates what they are doing. So I began to think: Why do all these people love their music? There may be something about this band I haven’t been able to hear in the beginning, which made me figure out exactly that – so here’s what I’ve found out.
My view of the band has changed so much after listening to Souvenirs for several times and concentrating on Novelists’ music. I realized that these guys know how to play their instruments and how to give variety despite playing in a genre that isn’t known for much variety. I wouldn’t state that they are creating something particularly new with this album, unlike other reviewers did. The album is with no doubt nicely structured and decently written, but I’ve already heard most of the riffs, licks and rhythmic patterns on it at some point before, which proves that Novelists actually aren’t a far cry from other young bands in the genre. Even though you can’t expect something completely out of the world, many songs on this record are really well-made. “Antares” with its massive breakdown and “Earth Graver” are two of the best songs on Souvenirs, the latter being a very groovy, slightly darker track. There are two slower tracks on this album as well: “Black Lights” serves more as an interlude, while “5:12 AM”, probably the cheesiest song of the year, still builds up very nicely and contains some sweet female guest vocals (greatest selling point here, hehe).
Speaking of the vocals, I still don’t like them too much. I’m convinced that even deathcore and metalcore bands should have a decent vocalist with strong gutturals (see Eddie Hermida of Suicide Silence) who can handle many different techniques and styles – it just makes everything sound much more balanced, in my opinion. Novelists’ vocalist Matt Gelsomino’s gutturals don’t sound really spectacular most of the time, but he can actually sing pretty decently, even though his cleans sound a little bit whiny at times and he sings out of tune in nearly every song at some point. In “Gravity”, for example, the mundane vocal harmony that can be heard during the bridge does the job of building up tension near the end of the track, but it’s pretty much a third above the main voice. Several notes are out of tune as well. Generally, I feel that the cleans aren’t trained and strong enough to handle lower and higher vocals. “Black Lights” shows exactly that for the lower register, “Gravity” once again for the higher register. On the contrary, there are some very nice and emotion-filled vocal melodies – “Echoes”,for that matter, contains some of the best vocal lines on the whole record – which shows that vocalist Matt will gradually be able to improve his performance on the next records if he keeps working on his voice.
All in all, I’m very looking forward to hear and see how Novelists will develop in the future. If you dig this genre, this is an album you may want to check out. It’s not for every metalhead, as modern metalcore isn’t the ultimate genre for everyone. But generally speaking, Souvenirs is a decent record. You’ll possibly just need some time to figure that out …
02. Earth Graver
06. Black Lights
07. The Voyager
08. Mouchos Touchey
10. 5:12 AM
11. The Lichtenberg Figure
Playing time: 49:26
Release date: 6th of November, 2015
Label: Arising Empire