Novelists – Noir


Artist

Album

Noir

Label

Arising Empire

Year

2017

For Fans Of

Landmvrks, ERRA, The Plot In You.

Summary

The sophomore slump is indeed real.

Rating

55 / 100

When considering progressive metalcore as a sub-genre, there is a specific quality to the sound. Those who produce music in this form tend to be in favour of something that’s more technical, experimental and djenty. Whether you’re a fan of this style or not you can, at the very least, appreciate how it attempts to push the boundaries. While the debut album from France-based Novelists exemplifies this is many ways, their new sophomore release, ‘Noir‘, falls flat by comparison. When considering this new LP in its entirety, Novelists have produced something that’s a solid effort and shows some innovative elements. Yet, you can’t help but notice such a close distinction between the band’s two albums, as they feature such striking similarities.

Most of these issues can be attributed to how the group have approached this record in a way that follows on from where they left off in ‘Souvenirs’. It almost feels as though they’re relying on what the debut release was praised for: the technicality, the hammering breakdowns, the powerful production; and in ‘Noir‘ they don’t really break away from this. In a sense, ‘Noir‘ fulfils what ‘Souvenirs’ was missing, but it never jumps off from it. Instead, it just sits in a safe spot. Whether you enjoy this as a fan or not will be determined by your individual taste, of course, but because of this, ‘Noir‘ doesn’t show a whole lot of variety as far as progression goes.

It also feels that more attention and care was given to just a few selection of songs here, leaving a healthy chunk of ‘Noir‘ to lack the same level of quality and love… and that’s difficult to overlook once you see it. For instance, ‘The Light, The Fire’ is arguably the real standout on this album. There are a lot of great hooks and a stellar chorus that puts the rest of ‘Noir‘ to shame. It also has something the record doesn’t have a whole lot of: actual dynamics. This track has so much movement and jumps from one section to the other effortlessly. If anything, it shows their potential as a group – this is the bar they can reach yet don’t reach often enough.

The band’s lyrics are also a real issue. Funnily enough, in spite of the group labelling themselves as “Novelists“, they don’t seem to be as thought-provoking in their lyrical execution as you’d hope them to be. When taken out of context, these lyrics read almost like a teenager’s angsty Tumblr page in some instances. Most of the time, it seems as though the words had just been spurted out without much thought or consideration behind their intent and usage. There’s just not really a whole lot depth and its hard to dismiss how expressions such as “I’m always craving for better vibes, my hands are rough, my soul is heavy” or “each time I try to face the light I just don’t fucking feel it” were included with the intention of simply having an ‘edgy’ effect. They can also just come off as being rather cringey. Now, before you fully jump the gun and write this band off, that’s not to say Novelists don’t create some really solid catchy hooks and emotionally driven ballads on this record. Of course, the entire point of the lyrics is to see how they blend with the music. But at times, they just seem a little undeveloped and cliché in their approach.

Despite this, credit must be given to those more innovative elements found in ‘Noir‘, such as the hip-hop/nu-metal styling of ‘Stranger Self’ and the tasteful saxophone parts – yes, a saxophone – in ‘Monochrome’ (courtesy of Mr John Heinrich). Many will also admire the band’s rejection of aggressive and heavy elements on this record. And that’s not to say this doesn’t exist in ‘Noir‘ – they most certainly do – but it’s not an overbearing theme that’s otherwise common in most metalcore records these days and it is somewhat refreshing. Instead, they focus on other textures and ideas like softness, beauty and whimsicality.

Novelists also have a good knack for producing music that feels smooth and natural, enabling you to become immersed in what you’re listening to. Something that stands out is how most of the songs begin with atmospheric soundscapes that blend into the track’s opening verse. This allows you to gain a sense of the environment and space quickly and ease you into the heavier or lighter flavours the band offer at any given point. This is particularly effective in ‘À travers le miroir’ (that’s French for “through the mirror”) where soft angelic sounds blend into the strumming of an electric guitar.

Conclusion

Noir is a decent effort overall but lacks a lot of variety in comparison to Novelist’s debut release. This is mostly due to how their sound and production can be considered to be a mere safe follow-up from ‘Souvenirs.’ This record seems to exist as an extension and not a proper sequel. While the band do offer some innovation on this record, it’s all easily overshadowed. So it’s difficult to consider it as something that shows much progression at all. For this reason, Noir probably won’t stay within most people’s music pools for very long and you’ll forget about the album quite easily. Novelists – as a recommendation, you should look to produce something that’s actually separated from your prior efforts; something that jumps off from your past work while also retaining some of your individual sounds.

Tracklisting

  1. L’appel Du Vide
  2. Monochrome
  3. Under Different Welkins
  4. Les Nuits Noires
  5. Grey Souls
  6. A Bitter End
  7. Stranger Self
  8. The Light, The Fire
  9. Joie De Vivre
  10. Lead the Light
  11. À Travers Le Miroir
  12. Heal the Wound

‘Noir’ is out now. 

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