Overall Score: 8.5/10 Cohesion: 8/10 Musicianship: 9/10 Production: 9/10 Pros: Three songs are extremely varied and keep the listener interested | Great musicianship Cons: Band wears its influences on its sleeve
Novena has been in the works for a while. Principle songwriter Harrison White (ex-Bleeding Oath/Tradjectory) and bassist Moat Lowe (No Sin Evades His Gaze/ex-Bleeding Oath) started the project back in 2013 after the demise of Bleeding Oath, planning to use what remained of the planned sophomore EP from the extreme progressive metal quartet. 3 years seeking out full members finally came to an end with the enlisting of lead guitarist Dan Thornton (No Sin Evades His Gaze), drummer Cameron Spence (ex-A Deeper Dreed) and, notably, vocalist Ross Jennings (Haken). Throwing in a guest appearance from Slice the Cake’s Gareth Mason, the complete Novena lineup unleashed their debut EP in July, entitled Secondary Genesis.
From the off, you can tell that the band have built up a well of creativity that they needed to let out on this EP. Opening track “Lost Within A Memory” sways around between soothing prog and pummelling aggression, with exchanges between Jennings’ soaring vocals and Mason’s harsh bark given a platform by the dynamic shifts of the music. There are clear nods to Haken in Novena’s sound, with White known to be a big fan of the band, while flashes of Opeth and Devin Townsend are also to be found.
With “Breathe”, things are taken into an even more proggy direction with the progressions sounding extremely similar to what you’d hear from middle-era Opeth or Porcupine Tree. The song jaunts between this and moments of extreme metal that show where some of the members’ backgrounds are (Moat Lowe and Dan Thornton both feature in tech-groove juggernauts No Sin Evades His Gaze), along with more serene passages that lull the listener into a false sense of security. The most eccentric moments of the album are surely be found in the title track, though. The way that the middle of the song shifts between blastbeats and breakdowns, calm prog, funk metal and even smooth jazz is something that you’d expect to hear Mike Patton yelping over in his Mr Bungle days, and it’s absolutely fantastic. Novena seem intent make sure that you have no idea what’s going to come next.
The only pitfalls lie in this, though. By being so varied, they may end up alienating some potential fans that will find these shifts too jarring to sit through, as so many bases are covered by each song over the course of Novena’s 30 minute EP. The fact that they haven’t fully devoted time to a fixed style means that you can definitely hear the bands that influenced Novena throughout the tracks. As already mentioned, the likes of Opeth, Porcupine Tree and Devin Townsend are easy to spot at times, while the Haken influence can perhaps be pinned on the simple fact that Ross Jennings sings for both bands. Fans of Mr Bungle will also compare the stylistic shifts in “Secondary Genesis” to the 90s madmen as well.
However, this is not to say this is a bad EP by any stretch – in fact, quite the opposite. With the group having to wait 3 years to get this out, you could understand why they wanted to fit so much into 3 tracks. Novena have a bright future in the progressive metal scene and, with a more refined effort next time around, will be big hitters in no time. Fans that love a challenging listen, or something which sticks a huge middle finger up to genre conventions, will definitely find something to love in Secondary Genesis. The production job by Paul Winstanley is top notch too, making the whole EP even more rewarding to listen to.
Having already managing to open the main stage at UK Tech Metal Fest and supporting Indian progressive metal masters Skyharbor later this year, Novena have already made a promising start to their career. Their EP is available for a measly £2.50 on Bandcamp and with more news on the horizon, it’s well worth keeping an eye on these boys.
Novena‘s debut EP Secondary Genesis is out now via Bandcamp. The group will open for Skyharbor at the Dingwalls in Camden on October 6, and you can buy tickets here. Follow the group on Facebook for more news and updates.