A NOVELIST is something of an eclectic project. Formed of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ben Nugent and drummer Alex Babineaux, the quirky duo are on a mission to expand the idea of what death metal can be through free and uncompromised expression. Now, I don’t mean to be a genre snob or anything, but I’d argue the Louisiana-based band are primarily progressive metal as they chuck all sorts of musical styles into the mixing pot. I guess this will make A NOVELIST a talking point in online forums for years to come… Genres and labels aside, second album Folie is a disgustingly impressive effort and each listen exposes a new nugget of intrigue.
Eerie opening track Folie Noire sounds like a hybrid of MARTIN GRECH and KARNIVOOL while the quieter moments of THE FACELESS look on. The slow build up bursts into a dark eruption that DARK TRANQUILITY would be proud of. It’s an interesting start to proceedings but next track Exteriors changes tack. It sounds like I’m listening to mid-noughties Victory Records bands again. The parallels to DARKEST HOUR and BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME cannot be ignored. Just when you think you can guess the direction the song is going in, a new element is thrown in keeping you on your toes.
Third track Tombeau is a little chaotic. The uncomfortable guitar work at the beginning clashes with the harsh vocals but once the song really gets going it is the riffs which carry the song. They truly shine and twinkle here and when the snippets of clean vocals peep through it ends up becoming a bit of a thrill! A similar thing can be said for next track, Apparitions with its mesmerising riffs and hypnotic vocals. It’s an ambitious track with the inclusion of a plethora of weird sounds but it sounds more jazz metal than death metal. If the song was a bit more focussed it would be a masterpiece. The clean vocals really come to the fore here making Apparitions a stunning listen.
Electric organs and harsh vocals shouldn’t really mix but in Acacia Crown somehow the mad genius of A NOVELIST make it work with aplomb. There’s a real energy to this song which is addictive. The energy manifests into a crazy beast in Caveat Lector which begins with EDITORS-esque riffs and jazzy overtones but soon erupts into BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME territory. I would have liked to have seen A NOVELIST push the jazz elements a little more, but they’re forgiven once the smooth vocals croon over the chaos.
Stockholm Blues is much of the same with its groovy jazzy undertones. The riffs in this track and Crestfallen stir a sense of nostalgia in me. There’s something about the guitar work and the vocals which remind me of metal from the late noughties but with a fresh, metallic crunch. It could be the production, it could be their influences, who knows, but it works and it sounds like a passionate endeavour. This is followed by Learning Paralysis which is an outstanding track. Probably the most ‘whole’ song on the album, it has a distinct beginning which returns throughout the track, making it consistent and focussed.
The pace slows a tad for album finale Interiors, but this somehow emphasises the emotions exposed in the song. The vocals have an air of HOPESFALL about them (hence the nostalgia perhaps?) and lots of interesting components throughout the track pile up for an exhilarating conclusion. There is an exciting and unexpected blackened interlude with intense drumming which brings in a new element in Folie. This, along with the stellar vocals make for a thrilling climax.