(Metalville Records/Arising Empire)
This lovely and long awaited debut record from French progressive metalcore act Novelists is a great opportunity for the band to finally make a splash in the progressive metalcore community. Unfortunately for the Parisian band, the scene is much different now than it was just two short years ago, when Novelists started teasing singles to fans. Sure, the djent/metalcore thing has probably overstayed its welcome, but as long as we have bands like Periphery, Monuments, and Heart of a Coward, this poorly-named sound will keep on truckin’. The question for Novelists is if Souvenirs has enough to make the auditory trip worthwhile.
Unfortunately, the answer is not definitive for yet another plural band (look it up; it’s a djent thing). Novelists’ sound could be defined in one of two ways: it’s the bridge linking Periphery and modern metalcore (see In Hearts Wake), or it’s what you’d hope Elitist would’ve sounded like after that promising EP many moons ago. That is to say the band has one foot firmly entrenched in technical and groovy guitar wizardry and another foot stomping down in melodic yet heavy ‘core. For the most part, Novelists adeptly blend the two sounds, resulting in a mostly cohesive listen, although a few of the earlier tracks travel too close to well-trodden metalcore tropes. You’ll hear abundant breakdowns, mediocre to passable lyrics interspersed with random cursing (for added aggression, I guess?), and highly addictive choruses that feel somewhat out of place. “Ouroborus” leans a tad closer to pure, over-produced metalcore, but it’s really effective, with some excellent chugs and an ace breakdown.
All this is to say it’s clear that Souvenirs is a debut album. There’s no indication of when these tracks were written, but it sounds like the second half was composed later, as it’s more cohesive and better exemplifies the sound Novelists are trying to go for: Misery Signals-core for the djent djeneration. That’s really what makes this debut a success despite its flaws. It’s one of those albums that I call an “asterisk album”. It’s an album that is loads of fun, and I’ll likely keep this thing on repeat, but Souvenirs is definitely flawed. Novelists mostly get the right mix of technicality, atmosphere, and brutality, but it’s not like you haven’t heard this before. There are times when it feels a tad close to Risecore (overly produced modern Mallcore) for comfort, but the band members are talented enough musicians that most of these instances are overshadowed by impressive moments.
Those looking for a better example of peak prog metalcore should check out Heart of a Coward’s latest, but if you’re aiming for something a tad sleeker, Novelists could be your new favorite band. If you thought the latest Northlane was too melodic and atmospheric, this album will do just fine. If you’re looking for a band that can add life to an aging subgenre, this isn’t it. (Nicholas Senior)