REVIEW: NOVEMBRE – “Ursa”
Gothic Metal has been a genre of Metal that I never truly liked. Compared to the other genres out there, most of the genre never clicked with me (there exceptions of course). When I found out there was a new Novembre record out, I was curious to see what the band has become after almost a decade of studio silence. Novembre is a long running Gothic Metal band from Italy who play in a style that can be described as Progressive Gothic Metal. Formed over the 20 years ago, the band’s previous album “The Blue” was released 9 years ago in 2007. I enjoyed ‘Novembrine Waltz’ and I found their previous album ‘The Blue’ to be decent but a small step in the right direction. The band finally returns with their 8th full length album, ‘URSA’, their third album on the legendary Doom Metal label Peaceville Records (My Dying Bride, Anathema, Paradise Lost etc). On this new album, sole original member Carmelo Orlando (vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist) and long time band member Massimiliano Pagliuso (guitarist) is joined by two new members Fabio Fraschini on bass guitar and David Folchitto(Stormlord) on drums.
The album starts off with “Austraiis”, a very clean Gothic Metal song from the band. Carmelo’s clean vocals sits on top the lush guitars while the surprisingly present bass and drums provide the foundation below. “Umana” is definitely one of biggest highlights of this album. Carmelo’s vocals gets paired up nicely with the instrumentation. The clean vocals gets paired with the looser more peaceful instrumentation while his harsh vocals gets supported by the flourishing guitars underneath. For the remaining half of this track, the song turns predominantly instrumental fitted with a couple of voice samples. The instrumentals grows towards the end in a manner that’s similar to something you’ll find in Instrumental Post Rock. Tracks like “Easter” and “Ursa” raises the intensity of the instrumentals while the clean and harsh vocals sits on top. ‘URSA’ also features the completely instrumental track “Agathae” which is able to showcase the band’s instrumental capabilities as they conjure a pleasant sounding instrumental break. The track “Bremen” brings you back with some of the most intense and heavy moments on this album and finishes with the track “Fin” of similar attitude and presentation.
The album as a whole is consistent with their older material. In terms of order in conceptualization, ‘URSA’ fits right in between ’Materia’ and ‘The Blue’. The foundation of this album sits on the material you would find on ’Materia’. The instrumentation, heavy usage of clean vocals, and style is identical. The harsher vocals and relatively more intense or heavier moments of this album is reminiscent of ‘The Blue’. However, the emphasis of this record is much closer to ’Materia’. The overall sound of this album is very warm with the rounder and lush guitars, soft clean vocals, and the more reserved harsh vocals that does not come as aggressive at all but instead adds an additional layer to the music. The instrumentation on this album is the strongest characteristic. From the soft interludes, cordial guitar passages, and gentle bass, the instrumental aspect of the band works well in creating the right color and setting the right tone for the album, especially when Fabio comes out and adds to the color with his bass.
Apart from sounding pleasant, Novembre fails to provide a deeper experience for the listener. ‘URSA’ is an one hour affair (64 minutes to be precise) that is way too consistent for it’s own good. During certain parts of the album, I would actually stop and ask myself, have I listened to this before? This album is repetitive as a result of its own consistency and became long winded and tiring to listen to. The music itself is not particularly boring but once you have everything consolidated into an album, the album suffers. Carmelo’s clean vocals are very dry, nasally, almost lifeless, and poorly articulated and is one of the biggest reasons I am not entirely a fan of the band. However, he does try to shy away from that during tracks like “Bremen” where he is more pronounced. With the abundant presence of the clean vocals, the music becomes very one dimensional or lopsided as the album gets lost within itself. Is the album band? No. The album has its moments, especially on tracks like “Bremen” and “Agathae”, the latter half of “Umana”, and how the bells are integrated in “Easter”. The album was simply uninteresting as it failed to captivate me. I feel that this album would be stronger if they added some of the darker aspects of their sound on ‘Novembrine Waltz’ to add more depth and shape to the album as it’s currently very flat and directionless. If you are a fan of bands like Woods of Ypres, Draconian, Oceans of Slumber, mid era Paradise Lost, later My Dying Bride, old Theater of Tragedy, and When Nothing Remains, ‘URSA’ is not an album for you. You are better of listening to Novembre’s older albums like ‘Novembrine Waltz’.
If you are a fan of Novembre’s Peaceville albums, then take this review with a grain of salt. Hopefully, you will enjoy this album more than I ever will. ‘URSA’ fits perfectly with ’Materia’ and ‘The Blue’. You will find some nostalgic comfort with this one. After 9 years of studio silence, Novembre returns with ‘URSA’, a very safe album that moves one step forward but takes two steps back. The album has a very nice warm and lush sound, but lacks sufficient amount of sustenance to drive the album forward. Novembre ssucceed in replicating the sound they have left in the mid 2000’s but their efforts would only survive on nostalgia. ‘URSA’ suffers the “reunion album syndrome” as they return from their long hiatus.