The soul crushing full-length debut from London based Post-Metal collective Novere has seemingly, for me at least, came out of nowhere to thrust themselves at the top of AOTY discussion.
Musically, Novera is whole heartedly influenced by and builds upon what the greats (Isis, Cult of Luna, Rosetta, etc.) have done in the past. Personally, I love seeing the new generation embrace the giants that came before them. We’re given four tracks, each with emotional highs and devastating lows, at once moving from psychedelic riffing and tribal drumming that would make any Tool fan take notice, to the atmospheric, sludgy crescendos and articulate aggression of Isis. Moments of smothering distortion and dreamy clean tones dripping with melody. We’re also given a dynamic vocal performance. Lyrics that could stand alone as poetry, sang with deeply emotional cleans that manage to be articulate but never over the top, and deep, low breathy growls that force their way from the diaphragm.
Thematically, Novere delves into the conditions of the human state when faced with extreme loss, drug addiction, and existential suffering, and more so our attempts to keep our own dignity, grace and sanity while being weighed down by these trials. Flawed attempts though they may be. In the band’s words: “The four titles in the album represent four stages of an internal dialogue. This journey begins with the realization of a flawed existence and closes with the acceptance of this, embracing a torment that will never end. It’s our ultimate tribute, a letter to the lowest and darkest moments of our lives.”
The first track is titled “Hydra” which at first conjures in one’s mind the mythical, many headed creature. But that’s not the ‘hydra’ we’re talking about, rather the improper noun ‘hydra’ that’s defined as “a multifarious evil not to be overcome by a single effort”. It throws us directly into the heavy, droning riffing and anguished growls, using religious imagery to show how man has always been flawed from its very creation, and the torment that comes from unattainable, faithbased endeavors. “From the rib of the first man, in his bleeding heart, it hides til it’s over. But it never ends… Would Heaven open its gates for me?… Unreachable hand of faith. The torment that never ends… Cut my head off it will grow back again…” We’re shown that it’s man’s nature to be flawed, and attempts to lift oneself out of the misery of existence will only lead to more suffering that’s grown from these faulty attempts. Hopelessness is the theme here.
Next up is my favorite track and the most epic off the album “Aphelion” which is defined as ‘the point farthest from the sun in the path of an orbiting celestial body (such as a planet)’. Based on that and the song that came before, for me this track represents the act of letting go of those faulty routines that we place upon ourselves, and embracing the emptiness one feels when faced with traumatic events, as well as the stains both physical and emotional, that will never be removed. “Shredded flesh. Open wounds. In a grain of sand, the weight of the earth. The shape of the past in a glowing fog. Drugged by shadows I dissolve. In a grain of sand, the shape of the past.” Simply put, we are, for better or worse, marked by our trauma or our addictions. If that isolates us, then so be it. The song beckons us to move forward with this emptiness and these stains in tow. Alienation is the human condition we’re given on this track. “Danse Macabre” is the third and most somber track on the release. A French term meaning ‘macabre dance: dance of death, in medieval times a literary or pictorial representation of a procession of both living and dead characters, embracing the equalizing power of death.’ This track I believe is addressing drug addiction, and more specifically how close to the edge one brings themselves in the midst of addiction, wearing death on themselves like a fine suit. Musically it’s all very beautiful and emotional, coming as close to a ballad as this album offers.
Finally we get to the closing track “Cromlech” which is a Welsh word defined as ‘a circle of monoliths usually enclosing a dolmen or mound.’ Monolithic is the perfect word for this track as it feels so big and powerful with its machine gun riffs that stand tall with the booming drums and the thick, chunky bass lines, all moving as one to create waves and crashes. The theme here is no secret, this track is all about grief and what it leaves us in the wake of loss. The closing lines are haunting, standing alone as the music slowly subsides, leaving only tortured screams “If I could dive into the aura of your dust. One last time In the place where blackness swallows the light. To breathe. To feel alive once more. But the pain always stays the same…”
Overall, it’s an ambitious effort, both musically and conceptually. It’s definitely in my consideration for album of the year, but bigger than that I hope it’s the start of a long, varied career for a group of musicians not afraid to go big with all their ideas.