Review Summary: Novembers Doom drop the Opeth worship riffs for the most part and break out the drop A. The result is their best album to date.
Ah, Novembers Doom. For over 10 years, this little known band (an AMERICAN band, no less) has been plugging away, releasing albums that toss around doom riffs and Opeth-esque acoustic passages in a blend that has really yet to be replicated. Except for Opeth, of course. The band is signed with The End Records, who are home to some of the finest (and undefinable) bands in the metal scene, including Agalloch, Green Carnation, Head Control System, Sigh, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, The Gathering, Ulver, Unexpect, and Winds. It must have been quite an honor to have an album released on this label.
Fronted by Paul Kuhr, who also shares frontman duties with the avantgarde band Subterranean Masquerade, he is a commanding force that is instantly recognizable. Paul’s growls are deep and weathered, much like Mikael Akerfeldt’s voice (again, more Opeth references), and he has a very deep, melancholic singing voice. However, he tends to speak passages rather than sing them when he isn’t emptying his lungs with all the force at his disposal. It leads to an interesting contrast that, for the most part, works.
The Novella Reservoir, the quintet’s latest release, draws inspiration from a different vein than their other releases, and it is that different style which makes it their crowning moment. Rather than the Opeth styled riffing and the doom metal, The Novella Reservoir features extremely downtuned, crushing, and oftentimes SIMPLE distorted riffs. The whole album is actually quite catchy, and it is often the simplicity of the riffing that makes the album so good.
Tracks like Rain
show off this new angle of Novembers Doom. One of the best tracks on the album, Rain is an absolutely CRUSHING opener. From the moment it starts, the listener is bombarded with a monsterous riff in A (think Korn low, except about 5 million times better) that builds and builds until it finally bursts over and Kuhr comes in. I personally think he is at his best here. With brutal growls that perfectly complement the pounding riffs, Novembers Doom lays waste to any other American band that has tried to be “brutal”. THIS is brutality at its best. It doesn’t have to be ridiculously complicated or technical. It’s just all about the band members playing off of each other
Drown The Inland Mere
is another example of how simplicity has worked in the band’s favor. A chugfest with more A riffs and brutal growling, the album’s single once again pounds listeners into submission before relenting a little bit with a sung chorus. On this release, much more so than the other ones, Kuhr chooses to sing rather than speak, and his harmonizations are quite intriguing. For a guy with such a monotonous voice, he really can sing quite well. He harmonizes many passages with a base part that usually consists of few notes and other parts above it, which creates for an almost droning effect that is quite captivating.
The band isn’t all about being terrifyingly heavy, though. Twilight Innocence
is a beautiful acoustic song that actually works quite well with Kuhr’s deep voice. Gone are the Opeth ripoff acoustic passages. They have instead been replaced with more minor passages, instead of Opeth’s dissonance. Minor keys have always been Novembers Doom’s strong point. Something about Kuhr’s voice and lyrical content (while sometimes lacking) make it more suitable for simple minor passages that choose to focus on the beauty of sadness instead of the technicality of dissonance. It is that realization that truly makes Novembers Doom a terrific band.
However, the band shines the most on the tracks that combine these acoustic passages with pounding brutal riffs. The title track, undoubtedly my favorite track, starts with some acoustic riffing before blasting into a slower paced tidal wave of distorted guitar. Kuhr’s deep growls give way to what I consider the best singing passage of the album. The chorus to the song contains a harmonized passage that gradually adds more layers to it, but it’s really hard to believe something so simple can be so good. With only a few notes, Kuhr’s pleading that:
“You’re not the savior of this world
A simple life has come to pass
You’re not the answer to my faith
I’ll never give you what you need”
takes on an unsurpassed emotional value that is genuine and true, and not forced. Kuhr puts his heart and soul into his singing, which more than makes up for his lack of range and ability. Again, simplicity reigns supreme.
The outro, Leaving This
, also starts with clean riffing, and is altogether a more relaxed song. No growls make it into this track. Much like Twilight Innocence
, this track focuses on simple minor key progressions with Kuhr speaking over them to craft a story of a life that must be left. The distortion kicks in during the chorus with Kuhr singing over it, and much like the title track, the chorus is one of my favorite parts of the album. It doesn’t differ from the style of the title track that much, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
One thing that I noticed about this album that I don’t really take note of is the artwork is extremely superb. Now, I know absolutely nothing when it comes to art. My stick figures even come out disproportionated and ugly. However, the artwork sets the perfect tone for the album to come. From the lone soul adrift in an umbrella down a river where many have lost their lives to the twisted sense of reality where umbrellas sprout tree roots, a portrait of desolation is painted.
Barring a few lyrical hiccups and a couple of weaker tracks (Drown The Inland Mere
being one of them; it’s not a bad track by any means, it’s just hopelessly overshadowed by the rest of the album), Novembers Doom’s latest release is their magnum opus, their crowning moment, whatever you want to call it. It’s also one of the best albums released this year to date.
The Novella Reservoir