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The music is relentless, yet restrained; heavy, yet soaring; familiar, but adventurous. It is passionate, melancholic, tragic, and occasionally euphoric. And this all perfectly sums up Novena’s debut album Eleventh Hour, out now via Frontiers Records. Following up on 2016’s EP Secondary Genesis which showed a prospect of greater things to come, Eleventh Hour takes more than a couple casual listens to fully appreciate it. But once you sit back, give it attention, and really experience the album, you will catch a glimpse of the spark of genius that inspired this record.
With the album tackling “the stories about an experience we all share in at some point – death – and the feelings we all have regarding them,” thematically Eleventh Hour seems to be a dark release with lots of uplifting music.
The songs themselves work best in context, but “2259,” “Lucidity,” “The Tyrant” and “Prison Walls” stand confidently on their own. Some of the best moments exist in contrast, and Eleventh Hour is full of them. The album maps out a prudent direction right from the start, swirling through soundscapes built on the foundations of alternative, progressive rock and metal, isolated yet sociable. With each listen Eleventh Hour grows making one recognize how extremely determined Novena is about their work here.
The interweaved narratives of Eleventh Hour are disclosed in the dramatic 15-minute “Prison Walls,” a song that in the best possible way reveals what the band is made of. The six-piece is enjoying playing with contrasting elements, but the way they are merging these into one cohesive whole is not something you bump into very often. Tracks like “Sun Dance” and “Sail Away” are what glues the distinctive pieces of an overall very diverse release. The fun-loving rhythms of “Corazon” which, figuratively speaking bring the heart of Havana to the capital of prog, all signal that there is still unexplored space within the overly exploited genre.
The ardour with which Novena penned these songs glows through the members’ performances. Dan Thorton and Harrison White’s guitars are buoyant, and Cameron Spence’s drums are equally powerful and joyous. Clean vocals by Ross Jennings and growls courtesy of Gareth Mason are both utterly enthralling.
With its playtime of 73 minutes, Eleventh Hour may not really look as an attractive listen, but behind that this whooping amount of time there is a varied album that never becomes tiring. This is a very refreshing listen and one of the strongest candidates for the album of the year.