Review Summary: Such is life
Novelists FR, formerly just "Novelists", are a progressive metalcore band from Paris, France. Their first two albums, Souvenirs
, stretched between both ends of the progressive metalcore genre, with Souvenirs
leaning toward the heavier "metalcore" side, and Noir
erring on the more creative "progressive" side. After listening to and enjoying these two albums regularly since their releases, I was left to wonder how the band would progress on their third album. My initial guess was that they would gravitate toward the center of their chosen genre, finding a middle ground between the riffs and the experimentation. In some senses this is what did occur on C'est La Vie
, but more so I believe this album represents Novelists FR at their most accessible.
C'est La Vie
kicks off with Somebody Else
, in which Florestan begins with one of his signature technical riffs, eventually expounded upon with the pulsating rhythm section. After a few repetitions, Matteo comes in, singing with his always evident but no less endearing French-accented English. After a few alternations between singing and screaming, Matteo delivers the sung chorus overtop of a rhythmic riff in forte. After the second verse and a guitar solo, the song concludes with a revisit of the chorus.
Novelists FR use this similar verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure in almost every song on C'est La Vie
; and although this isn't too out of the ordinary for them, it sets them apart from the majority of their peers in the genre, who tend to go in a more sporadic direction with their songwriting. The one outlier on the album is the title track, which is a softer duet with guest vocalist Camille Contreras. The song gradually crescendos to what I would consider to be the chorus – if it weren't followed by a disappointingly abrupt fadeout. But despite its relatively short length, it still stands as one of the standout tracks thanks to some brilliant atmospheric guitar-work and Camille's sensuous singing.
Unfortunately, the other two guest vocal appearances, which occur on Kings of Ignorance
, add nothing of value to either song. Matteo, who is a far more experienced vocalist than Florent Salfati (LANDMVRKS, mediocre band) and Michael Hirst (Nubia, great band), could have easily covered these vocal spots himself, and it would have likely sounded much better. Thankfully, the closing track Human Condition
features not a guest vocalist, but a guest guitar solo from Aaron Marshall (Intervals, great band) that blends seamlessly well with the rest of the song. The outro of this track, which sounds like the far off strumming of the main riff on an unplugged electric guitar, concludes the album in a lighthearted way that makes me smile despite wishing that the album were longer.
Overall, C'est La Vie
is Novelists FR playing within the confines of their comfort zone, but also sticking to the basics of what has worked for them in the past. The crushing intros, thick riffs, catchy choruses and glossy production are all present. But at only 37 minutes, a 15+ minute cut from their previous albums, the album reads more like a novella rather than a novel. Still, if there's one album I'd recommend to someone checking out Novelists FR for the first time, it would have to be C'est La Vie
, due to its modest length and straightforward nature.