The majority of extreme metal bands do not break the ten album mark and Novembers Doom, the American Death/Doom metal veterans, are not one of them. The Chicago based band is one of the oldest and longest-running bands of the style and they have made a name for themselves for their brand of melodic and melancholic leaning side of Death/Doom. Now, Novembers Doom are returning with their eleventh album ‘Nephilim Grove’. The band has not been immune to criticisms of monotony by some listeners and whether or not those criticisms matter does not detract from the continued consistency the band has established. Now, with this new album, how does it compare to the rest of the band’s discography?
Novembers Doom left off previously on their tenth album, ‘Hamartia’ which saw the band taking a more melodic approach to their songwriting. ‘Nephilim Grove’ sees the band go in a direction that is somewhat more in line with their usual approach to their brand of death doom. “The Witness Marks’ is a classic modern Novembers Doom sound that checks off all the boxes for what fans of the band can expect. This song has some solid death/doom riffs, good clear production, strong low growls, and somewhat melodic and sombre clean vocal lines.
“Nephilim Grove” is definitely a stand out track that any Novembers Doom fan would enjoy. It has a good balance of sombre and ballady clean vocal side of the band’s sound and the hard-hitting aggressive side of the band’s sound. The progression and tension building in this song is quite enjoyable as it builds and builds and gets more and more intense until the band is pummeling you and releases into clear outro through a flurry of piano notes. If you want to hear more of a progressive metal influenced side of the band, “What We Become” has you covered. Clean vocals wise, this is the strongest track off the album as the vocals lines are some of the most emotional, melodic, and well-performed on this album. The song also features a very well-fitting solo that compliments the rest of the song. Unfortunately, these are the only three standout tracks on this album as the rest of the album lacks in the consistency that these three tracks establish.
There are some peculiar choices on this album that felt quite out of place. “Petrichor” is an example. The song is predominantly sung which isn’t a new thing for the band but the vocal lines have a little more angst or dismissal edge to them and sound like a departure from their classical tonality. I can’t shake the feeling that the vocals sound on this track is from an alternative metal or rock band. Unfortunately, that’s not the only track that one could draw similar comparisons. “Black Light” is a song that sounds like it could have been done by a band like “Demon Hunter” if they tried to emulate Novembers Doom. The main riffs are much more rhythmic and “chuggier” than usual which could be questionable and can come off as uninspired or lazy for some. This could also be said for the song “The Obelus” which, combined with the previous song, are the two weakest tracks on the album. “Adagio” starts off great with some solid hard-hitting riffs but the song suddenly pauses as the band drops out into this weird electronic synth break that completely and jarringly breaks the momentum and progression of the song. The song does return back to how it was in the beginning but you can’t help but ask if that sudden break in the song was necessary, especially when the rest of the song is one of the better moments on this album. Not saying these comparisons or decisions are bad, but just out of character for the band.
‘Nephilim Grove’ is definitely a misstep in the band’s discography as it lacks the consistency one expects from Novembers Doom. The band makes some questionable decisions and the overall album quality suffers, despite there being some good moments on the album that fans are sure to enjoy. It is unclear what the band’s intentions in developing their sound are but the music presented in this album does not show the band delivering what fans would expect. This album is not bad at all, but compared to the rest of the band’s discography, it may leave some fans disappointed and scratching their heads. Perhaps die-hard fans would enjoy this album but you will never know if you don’t listen to it yourself. For me though, I would be sticking to their older material but hey, at least the album art looks great right?