French band, Novelists, created a stir in the progressive rock world back in 2015 when they released their debut album, Souvenirs. The band had already created quite a buzz teasing audiences with a stream of singles since their formation not long beforehand. Now, after a heavy touring schedule, come their eagerly anticipated second album, Noir: an ambitious concept album that works.
You do get a feeling that this album has ‘parts’ when you listen to it, but that is exactly what the band was after – deliberately making the album four chapters, each with distinct emotion, feeling, guitar tuning, and even their own production/mixing. It works though, and the album never feels disjointed while you are listening.
The early tracks each have an identity of their own. “L’appel Du Vide” has the perfect progressive rock sound – the right mix of rock with an electronic sound filtering through. Vocally, it is perfect as well with Matt Gelsomino fighting the right mix of clean and screaming vocals. The album then builds in tempo – “Monochrome” is smooth with some saxophone thrown in, while “Under Different Welkins” starts smooth until its metal side really kicks in.
It’s then that Noir kicks into another gear. “Les Nuits Noires” begins with its own atmospheric feel before its more brutal side raises its head. The brutality then continues – “Grey Souls” is pure aggression with a melodic chorus, “A Bitter End” is brutal in parts and sounds like a missing track from The Queen Of The Damned soundtrack while “Stranger Self” is harsh but also has a niceness around it.
Noir then takes another turn with “The Light, The Fire” returning back to the perfect progressive rock seen earlier on the album, reaching some epic heights as it does. “Joie de Vivre” and “Lead The Light” sees Novelists continue that journey while the album closes with “A Travers le Miroir” and “Heal The Wound” which see the guitar work of Florestan Durand and Charly Kelevra really come to the fore. The former containing some crazy playing at times.
Novelists could be forgiven if they had gone with something safe for their second album, but we should be thankful that they took the risk and delivered Noir. It is an adventurous album that is going to be loved by prog rock fans everywhere.