Friday, August 19, 2016

Novembre-URSA

The Italian Gothic/doom metal band Novembre has been around for a while, mainly with brothers Giuseppe and Carmelo Orlando as the core of the band. However, they took a hiatus in 2008, and when the band decided to reform last year, Giuseppe decided that he wasn't returning with the band, as he joined fellow Italian doom metal band The Foreshadowing in 2013, leaving Carmelo and another longtime member Massimiliano Pagliuso (member since 1997) as the sole remaining members of the band. Nonetheless, Novembre soldiers on with a new album out this year in URSA, and it is a candidate for album of the year.

The opening track "Australis" sees Novembre play their style of music like they live in it, as everything flows smoothly, from the vocals to the guitars. Nothing is forced, not even the harsh vocals, which make their first appearance on "The Rose," as it intertwines with everything. "Umana" is a more somber offering that is more balanced, though the mellower rhythms tend to soften the vocals a little. The title track has a harsher start, with the vocals coming out with more vigor before the clean vocals and rich guitar melodies enter the mix. The entire album is like this, and while the clean vocals offer little variation, it is more subtle, and it is the guitar melodies that truly steal the show. There is even a saxaphone solo on "Annoluce," one of the better songs on the album. There are random stops and starts on URSA, which provides a little element of surprise, and while it does create a little confusion if you're not looking at track listings and times, it is something different. "Bremen" is an instrumental that showcases the harsher side of their sound more. The only issue with the album is that the drumming sounds a little buried beneath the rest of the music, thanks to production values that emphasize the guitars. However, it's only a minor issue, as it is an enjoyable, if not mellow album.

Novembre used the much needed time away to come up with possibly their best album since the 2001 release Novembrine Waltz, and while URSA is heavily dependent on guitars and vocals to carry the day, it does so in a way that few other albums could. There is much to like here, and with songs that just work musically, many of the songs on the album can be considered worth listening to multiple times. Novembre has returned with a masterpiece and a contender for album of the year.

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