Review Summary: Its parts may be borrowed from better bands, but Children of Nova assemble these parts into a very compelling release that hints at a bright future for the band.
It’s somewhat ironic that Circa Survive have become the poster children for this whole indie/prog movement, when nearly every one of their contemporaries one-ups them in terms of technicality, songwriting, etc; (Closure in Moscow and The Dear Hunter immediately come to mind). You can safely add Children of Nova to that last list, as evident on The Complexity of Light
, the band’s debut album/EP (at 33 minutes and six songs, it skirts the line between the two). It may not be the most original album you’ll ever hear, but it shows heaps of potential for the young San Diego band.
OK, let’s just get the main complaint out of the way: the music of Children of Nova can basically be described as a combination of well-worn elements from their contemporaries. The vocalist sounds like Cedric Bixler-Zavala when he’s not trying to sound like Andrew Mailloux. The guitars sound like Circa Survive when they don’t sound like Closure in Moscow. The pretentious-as-hell sci-fi story behind the album reeks of Coheed and Cambria, complete with prophecies and evil armies and the saviour of Earth or some such nonsense. On the surface, this supposed lack of originality would be an instant death-knell. Thankfully, the bands Children of Nova are cribbing from are all really good, and where the band may initially lack in creativity, they make up for it in sheer execution.
The band’s biggest strength is their technical ability: make no mistake, these cats can play. Special mention must go to the exceptional rhythm section of the band, especially bassist Mario, whose smooth and spiraling basslines frequently upstage the guitars. On “Second Sight Blackout”, the bass essentially defines the songs melody for its first couple minutes, and his work on standout track “Arcaedion” is truly a delight to behold. Likewise, vocalist Teo displays his vocal range throughout the album, especially with the Mars Volta-esque falsetto flourishes he frequently busts out. My one complaint in this regard is that he does it a few too many times, and it comes off as a little showy: the falsetto yelps at the very end of the title track sound mostly unnecessary in the context of the rest of the song, and are much better integrated on “Second Sight Blackout” and “Arcaedion”.
The Complexity of Light
puts its best feet forward with its first two tracks. The titular “The Complexity of Light” starts with a percussion-heavy intro that furthers the Mars Volta comparisons, but from there it’s sweet ambrosia, with a chorus that immediately makes all the negative comparisons moot in the realization that these guys can really write a great track. It’s over six and a half minutes in length, but shifts through several mood changes throughout and stays fresh and exciting throughout. As previously mentioned, “Arcaedion” is the easy highlight, with its memorable staccato riffs, invigorating and surprisingly soulful chorus, and an intense climax that encompasses all of the best technical elements of each of the band members.
The one thing that keeps this from being an instant recommendation is the fact that following these two tracks, the album never quite approaches the same heights. There isn’t a bad track in the bunch, but it’s hard to hear “The Fall of Aphonia” as anything but a rehash of the two previous songs. Likewise, “The Collide” is a servicable closer, and encompasses some of the album’s best individual moments, but at over seven minutes runs out of new territory to explore well before its finale, leaving the impression of a track that could have used a better editor. At the same time, these complaints are all forgivable of a relatively young band, and while The Complexity of Light
doesn’t achieve every one of its ambitions, the sheer fact that such a young band was able to accomplish any of these ambitions is impressive enough. By itself, it’s probably not going to be the new Bible for indie/prog bands, but it proves that Children of Nova has enough potential to one day write that Bible for themselves.
Oh, and it’s only $6 on iTunes. Geez, that should have been in the intro.