Review Summary: The French nu metal revival continues.
There's a lot of rap metal coming out of France of late, with newbies such as Smash Hit Combo taking their cue from classic groups such as Pleymo, Lofofora and Mass Hysteria. One of the other newer bands to come out of the scene is Marseille quartet Digital Nova, and their NFFP Records debut Orphelins, released late last year, shows a bright future awaits them.
It's clear from the opening ambience of "Esclave et Maître" that Digital Nova are making full use of the new-found budget they have on NFFP Records, with a much more polished production on Orphelins compared to previous independent efforts Oxygène and Alpha Omega. The guitars sound crisp and punishing, and everything is given room to breathe. Compared to previous efforts which showed more of a hardcore influence, it's safe to say that on Orphelins, the band have taken on more of a nu metal sound, with a very clear Korn influence in their music at times – whether it be the effects driven guitars of Jean Baptise Caysac or the brooding rhythm of Mathieu Dubois' bass, all kept together by subtle synths and drummer Stayff Silmar's hard hitting groove. François Le Goazigo also shows great vocal aptitude, switching seamlessly between singing, screaming and rapping. His rapping style doesn't quite have the speed and intensity of the guys in Smash Hit Combo, but it suits the slower style of Digital Nova and is used to great effect.
The hardcore influence hasn't been completely abandoned, however. "Les dés sont jetés" opens with breakneck riffs and throat-shredding vocals from Le Goazigo, while "Le monde est beau" is their most scream-oriented track and is full of beatdown driven riffs. However, it's when they channel their nu metal influences when they shine. "Immortels" sits as the stand-out track on the album after a somewhat forgettable middle section with its eery guitars and powerful execution, while the closers "A son instinct" and "Orphelins" close out the album well. Before that, we also have "Détruire / Souffrir", a track as destructive as its name suggests. The groove of the track reminds one of some of Deftones' heavier moments, such as on the White Pony track "Elite". It's safe to say that Digital Nova like to wear their influences on their sleeves, but in a way that prevents the music from becoming little more than a cheap imitation of their predecessors. The change in pace to an atmospheric middle section into another moment of pure chaotic riffing shows how much Digital Nova have evolved and developed their songwriting over the past 7 years, and more structures like this will be very much encouraged on their next outing.
The main problem with Orphelins is that the band sort of loses their momentum half-way through the album. Aside from "Détruire / Souffrir", nothing particularly stands out in the middle section. Tracks like "Un homme parmi les siens" are well performed but just lack a hook that would make them stand out. "La peur" does well to create a very haunting atmosphere and has some decent nu metal riffs, but it just can't quite live up to the standard of other tracks, seemingly unable to decide whether it wants to be a creepy nu metal song or another aggressive hardcore track. It's perhaps the best example of where Digital Nova are creatively at the moment: in a state of transition between their hardcore driven early output and the gloomier, nu metal future that they appear to be aiming for. It's nothing that can really drag down the overall positive view of the album, though, as the strong start and fantastic finish make sure that Orphelins will get this band noticed sooner rather than later.