Hello once again, loyal Abyss reader! Another week in the metal books here at the MA HQ and while there's some very promising stuff on the radar, not least of which is a new In Flames album that has a genuine "return to form" buzz about it, we're still cranking the brand new, underground jams here too, in hopes of finding something deserving of your refined ear holes. Enter Lafayette, Louisiana-based progressive death metal duo A Novelist, and their sophomore offering 'Foile,' which just dropped this past Friday. Mind Eraser Promotions was kind enough to hook us up with a review copy and, if you've been following along at home, this comes on the heels of another left-of-center DM offering of theirs, Noise Trail Immersion's 'Symbology of Shelter.' Why is this significant, you may ask? It's likely not, but I am fascinated by the crumbling of the once rigid and vaunted genre barriers within extreme metal, and what it portends for the future of unpopular music. In the case of A Novelist, we have a band that began life 10 years ago as a death metal project, but has since morphed into a progressive extreme metal fusion of blackened death, post-hardcore, uncomfortable, almost negligent ambiance, and hints of jazz. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ben Nugent alternately screams, growls and sings his way over dirty distorted guitars and Alex Babineaux's jazz meets thrash drumming. Nugent's vocals, and in particular his commanding cleans, take center stage throughout, and fall somewhere between Cedric Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta and, if you can believe it, Matt Bellamy of Muse. This is not a backhanded compliment. Done right, as it has been done of Folie, running the full gambit vocally populates the album with multiple, distinct personalities, each with its purpose reason to be there. Underneath what would be an enigmatic frontman, if Nugent weren't also responsible for the guitars, bass and keys, is a carnival of fret manipulation that draws just as much from the heroic speed of The Faceless as it does the acid dipped post-hardcore of At The Drive In; an organ that effortlessly slips its way into a track, often without being detected; and Babineaux's time keeping, which should inspire everyone currently using Superior Drummer 2.0 to place a "drummer wanted" ad on craigslist. Technical without having to flaunt his prowess, Babineaux more than holds up his end of the "let's put everything we love into a blender and make a delicious metal smoothie" partnership. As is often the case with progressive/technical death metal, Folie is not an album of singles; nor is it a record that you can spin once and, for lack of a better term, "get it". There are numerous left turns within a single track, yet Nugent and Babineaux manage not to lose the listener in the process. Themes are developed, expanded upon and revisited, though certainly not in standard verse-chorus-verse form. Where truly avant garde metal might have you sample hundreds of different flavors of ideas on an album, never getting to savor any of them, here there are far fewer, and there's time enough to appreciate each in their turn. And appreciate them you should, as A Novelist is streaming Folie in its entirety over on YouTube at this very moment. Should what you hear scratch your prog/fusion itch, both digital and a very limited supply of CDs are available on A Novelist's Bandcamp page. As we move into our second month of 2019, it's apparent to me at least that the year could easily be dominated by the experimental. Time will tell, but BOY are we off on the right foot! Want to scratch your "won't JPR just go away" itch? Hit us up in the comments section and sign our change.org petition to have my pseudo-press credentials revoked. The Editor has promised me a lucrative golden parachute if you're successful, which is purported to contain a 30 cent credit in our vending machine and a non-functioning toaster. Rage on! JPR
A Novelist- Single "His Kingdom Is Vast"