Novembre
Ursa


4.0
excellent

Review

by Kyle Ward EMERITUS
March 13th, 2016 | 163 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Shifting our gaze outward

URSA is an acronym for Union des Républiques Socialistes Animales, the title originally given by George Orwell to the French translation of his seminal dystopian novella Animal Farm. The title plays on several close connections with the novella’s harsh but accurate critique of Stalinism and the USSR, and despite its eventual scrapping it served as a more direct affront to the work’s allegorical underpinnings. Novembre haven’t taken such a hardline approach to the themes of Animal Farm in their interpretation, but rather have committed themselves to addressing the Orwellian “apocalypse” unfolding before us as we turn away in blind indifference.

These rather heavy themes are the result of a 9-year sabbatical taken by the veteran Italian progressive death/doom metal act, and since their previous record The Blue the band has turned its artistic looking glass outwards, rather than keeping it intently focused on personal struggles. Through that, the record sounds fundamentally different from what the band has previously done. Novembre’s sound has long been a dichotomy of airy clean vocals and snarling rasps, but with URSA the focus has shifted toward a more delicate, melodious dreamscape that seems to be hiding another aspect; always feeling as if it is perilously close to turning into a nightmare. The instrumental arrangements act more as a single unit rather than a chorus of distinct, individual voices, and that renders the album in a different manner entirely. A product of thick swells of harmonious guitar riffs, URSA takes care to create an atmosphere that is fluid and natural, and nowhere on the record do things seem to stray away.

It is not a particularly heavy record, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t desperate or overtly angry. There is a lot of pain and struggle within the prevalent clean vocals, building up energy that is unleashed with staggering force when the harsh vocals do force their way out. It was at first disappointing to find that Carmelo Orlando’s sublime screams took a back seat on URSA, but given the tendency of the songwriting to veer away from heavy chords and thundering drums it only seems natural that the screams are also kept at bay until the right moment. That decision gives the heavy moments of the record more of a lasting impact, and effectively drive home the fact that URSA is reliant on effective mood shifts to be successful.

Novembre have always been securely rooted in the “progressive” camp, not allowing song structure to drive the atmospheres they want to convey. URSA is no different, taking no predictable path and always letting the prevailing mood determine what is to come, leading to a record that feels perpetually varied. The opening of “Agathae” shows instrumental flair and songwriting maturity, given that the immense buildup of the 9-minute track is left solely in the hands of calming, dancing guitar melodies that give no inclination toward the fact that the track quickly darkens and segues into the album’s heaviest moments mere minutes later. There is no predictable path through URSA, and that is part of what makes the record so successful. Even the more accessible tracks like “Umana” drive themselves through innovation rather than repetition, giving both the album’s music and concept a chance to spread their wings and achieve great things.

Great things are achieved, indeed, because through a concept that is allowed to really develop we have an album that tells a story. Carmelo Orlando, the band’s mastermind, is very adamant about URSA being more of a conceptual record focused on this aforementioned Orwellian apocalypse, and thankfully he and his fellow band members have written a record that feels like it has the instrumental and structural freedom to explore this concept. Sure, the clean vocals that dominate the landscape lack emotion at times, and the riffs aren’t necessarily memorable, but that’s not exactly the point here. URSA would be nothing without the strong thematic influences that have been swirling in Carmelo Orlando’s mind for 9 years now, and the songwriting perpetually strives to draw attention to the sociological, philosophical, and psychological underpinnings crafted by a band that has not ever been very reliant on the “concept album” in order to be effective. In the end, Novembre have succeeded in shifting their gaze toward the world at large, and with it they have shifted their own musical style. The potency of URSA’s sparse heaviness is offset greatly by a clear abundance of radiant, ever-changing melodies, allowing for a dynamic, complex record that refuses to let any of its many fragile parts shatter.



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user ratings (139)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Crysis
Emeritus
March 13th 2016


17272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well thought out, well written, well performed, well produced. This is like a 4.1-4.2 but since I'm emeritus now I have to round down to a 4. It is not earth-shattering or anything, but I can see a lot of people really enjoying this. If you liked the track they released you'll like the whole thing.

Digging: Kauan - Kaiho

Ocean of Noise
March 13th 2016


9729 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Amazing band. I'm sure this kicks ass.

Digging: Thursday - Full Collapse

Hellscythe
March 13th 2016


2063 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lovely review dude, now I'm even more stoked to hear this. I'm kind of glad to hear that the heaviness and harsh vocals have taken a back seat a bit, because I've always favored this band's more melodic approach and Carmelo's cleans.

Digging: Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
March 13th 2016


16479 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4 | Sound Off

Fantastic review, I can't wait to jam this. The song they released was mind-blowing.

Digging: Toby Driver - Live at Roulette, March 2017

Crysis
Emeritus
March 13th 2016


17272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm kind of glad to hear that the heaviness and harsh vocals have taken a back seat a bit, because I've always favored this band's more melodic approach and Carmelo's cleans.




You will love this then. I personally could take or leave his clean vocals as something about them doesn't seem quite right to me, but his harsh vocals are superb. Regardless, the songwriting alone makes this record worthy of the rating.

Ocean of Noise
March 13th 2016


9729 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The thing that stands out to me about these guys is how fluid their songs are. Every song is like a wash; every transition sounds completely natural. I've never heard another band who has achieved that.

Sabrutin
March 13th 2016


4458 Comments


Wasn't this supposed to be released on April 1st?

Interesting read nevertheless, may jam but I'm not in a hurry.

Digging: Necromandus - Necromandus

Crysis
Emeritus
March 13th 2016


17272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes, it is going to be released on April 1. We received a promo copy from the label for review.

Sabrutin
March 13th 2016


4458 Comments


I see, I wasn't sure about the rules regarding when to post a review for an upcoming album.

Have to say I wasn't a big fan of Umana, especially because of the production, but I may take a peek if that song is just the accessible single. It's probably gonna sound better inside the album's flowing too.

zaruyache
March 14th 2016


17707 Comments


hype. need to actually listen to this.

Keyblade
March 14th 2016


24810 Comments


is this out? don't play with my emotions now

Crysis
Emeritus
March 14th 2016


17272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No, it will be out April 1

Apollo
March 14th 2016


10670 Comments


damn, Umana is a beast of a track. Looking forward to this big time, nice review dude.

ComeToDaddy
March 14th 2016


1590 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Review has me hyped, looking forward to the release

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2016


6282 Comments


when is this released ?? (⊙.☉)7

elbaliem
March 15th 2016


1048 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

April will be a good month for music

DungeonBoy
March 15th 2016


3050 Comments


I enjoyed your review, and thanks for bringing this album to my attention. I like a lot of ideas on Blue, but as a whole thought it was a bit lacking. Will definitely give this a shot since I believe this band has a lot of potential.

Digging: Kauan - Kaiho

Apollo
March 15th 2016


10670 Comments


The clean vocals on Blue really bug me....everything else about the band is awesome. However in the single off this, I don't mind the clean vox at all.

Gameofmetal
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2016


10151 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

really excited for this. that single blew me away

Digging: Wolves in the Throne Room - Thrice Woven

Atari
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2016


22599 Comments


nice review kyle

definitely got me curious to check this one out

Digging: Susanne Sundfor - Music For People In Trouble



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