The difficult second album. It’s often talked about. A stumbling block for most bands is whether to stick with what worked on the first release and build upon it, or to change the tune, and experiment with a different sound. For Parisian metalcorers Novelists, the second record syndrome, unfortunately, has struck.
Following on from their debut album ‘Souvenirs’ was a hard task, and comparisons are unfair, but will always be made regardless. That’s not to say that ‘Noir’ isn’t a good record, but more that it doesn’t have the same spark as their first. Yet, there are some intriguing and, surprisingly, softer undertones to this record which are found to be both refreshing and pleasant.
Second track ‘Monochrome’ springs to mind in particular. Although it feels like it should creep in later on in the album, due to its use of calming, wavy synth patterns, clean, echoing guitars, and the surprise inclusion of a sweeping saxophone, it’s still a likeable song.
‘Under Different Welkins’ begins in the same soothing fashion, before punching in the screamed vocals and moving back into metalcore territory. This song is the first chance on the record for frontman Matt Gelsomino to show off his overlapping clean and growled vocals, helping this song to be a real tune to head bang to.
The main problem with this album, however, is the lack of content which grabs you. ‘Les Nuites Noir’, which translates to ‘The Black Night’, is, again, a heavy, aggressive metalcore song, but lacks that hooky chorus. Unfortunately, the same can be said about a quite few more tracks that are scattered across the duration of ‘Noir’, such as ‘Grey Souls’, ‘A Bitter End’, ‘Lead The Light’. These songs perform metalcore superbly, the technical riffs and harsh vocals are great, but there’s nothing else to pull you in and so, unfortunately, the songs become a bit samey. You could make an exception with ‘Stranger Self’, which has a nu-metal style rap occupy the second verse, but sadly that’s the only memorable highlight of the track.
Lead single ‘The Light, The Fire’ shows why its the lead single, as it has a big, powerful chorus whilst producing punchy, banging verses and breakdowns. Similarly, the chorus on ‘Joie De Vivre’ shows that the band can write dynamic and energetic choruses, but unfortunately, just not enough on this record. If more tracks on the album were like these two, then it’d be the perfect follow-up to ‘Souvenirs’.
Novelists are clearly talented and demonstrate this through their technical ability and capability to develop a softer, more experimental tone on a lot of ‘Noir’. It’s not a bad record, but it just doesn’t have enough strong tracks to keep you hooked. Novelists still have great potential, and it’d be great to see them overcome this difficult second album in the future.
Written by Dylan Tuck (@dylankightuck)