Novena – Secondary Genesis – EP Review

Novena cover

Artist: Novena

Album Title: Secondary Genesis

Label: Independent Release

Date Of Release: 22 July 2016

Novena is the name of another band that you will want to have firmly on your radar if your musical weapon of choice is prog and progressive metal to be more accurate.

Novena, are a five piece that formed back in 2013 and is based in the south of England. Within their number, they boast one of the hottest properties in prog circles behind the mic, namely Ross Jennings of Haken. Completing the line-up is guitarist, keyboardist and principle songwriter Harrison White (ex-Bleeding Oath, ex-Tradjectory), guitarist
Dan Thornton (No Sin Evades His Gaze), bassist Matt “Moat” Lowe (No Sin Evades His Gaze, ex-Bleeding Oath) and drummer Cameron Spence (ex-A Deeper Dreed)

The word ‘novena’ apparently means an act of religious pious devotion originating in ancient Christianity, often consisting of private or public prayers repeated for nine successive days in belief of obtaining special intercessory graces. Based on the content of this debut EP ‘Secondary Genesis’, I certainly wish that the amount of tracks reflected their moniker because three just doesn’t feel like it‘s enough. Admittedly the running time of the EP extends beyond the half-hour mark but when faced with quality, I always want more. And that’s definitely the case here.

With the instantly recognisable voice of Jennings leading Novena, it is hard not to hear those Haken influences and similarities at points throughout the EP. I also hear nods towards the output of Devin Townsend which is never a bad thing either. However, this is in no way a copycat band as Novena certainly have their own identity.

Theirs is a modern progressive metal that flirts with all manner of different influences, from extreme metal complete with confrontational growled vocals, right through to serene acoustic guitar-led passages that are soothing, melodic and maintain a sophisticated air. Djent is never far away and neither is a touch of metalcore or a descent into more quirky territory, like the almost maniacal laugh or the jazzy lounge music breakdown that both figure within the 14-minute title track.

novena band

However, ‘Secondary Genesis’ also has the sound of a band very much a band in its infancy, finding its feet and its way in the world. So understandably there are a few rough edges here and there that will, no doubt, get ironed out as the band grows.

The only real bone of contention I have is entirely subjective but it is the way in which the songs occasionally feel like they are trying to cram everything in, in an effort to demonstrate their musical prowess. It sounds bizarre that I’d criticise a prog band for being overly ambitious but it’s the manner in which the ambition is presented that’s very important. Whilst I really enjoy the vast majority of this EP, there are a few moments that come across as being cluttered, unnecessary or that don’t fit the overall vibe of the song.

But enough of being critical, let’s focus on the numerous positives.

Firstly, as previously intimated, Novena are a talented bunch. The execution is very slick as is the surprisingly strong production. I do enjoy the feeling of exuberance that permeates the output, as if the five musicians are thoroughly enjoying the freedom that this afforded them with this band and style of music. Jennings is joined by guest vocalist Gareth Mason (Slice The Cake) who is allowed to release his growl with regularity as the heavier and more aggressive djent-like sections demand. I like growling vocals but it is Jennings’ commanding clean delivery that I like best and which can’t help but raise a smile with me.

The keys are subtle, never threatening to overpower the music. And yet, they really accentuate the compositions, offering a certain warmth at times and dramatic flair at others.

Melody plays an equally important part, particularly in the first half of the excellent ballad-like ‘Breathe’. And, when the music is so chock full of different ideas, it is the glue that holds everything together. More so, the relatively understated melodies that are not overly prominent on a first listen gradually begin to work their insidious magic and draw the listener in for repeated spins.

On the basis of ‘Secondary Genesis’, Novena do have a bright future ahead of them. With a little more focus, a little more in the way of exacting quality control and a little less unnecessary extravagance and we may have the very next big thing in progressive music. As it is, ‘Secondary Genesis’ is still a debut release that should turn heads and get people talking, not to mention creating impatience for a debut full-length.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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