Tech Death Thursday: A Novelist – Folie
If your hog thirsts for prog, then we’ve got you covered today. A Novelist is returning with their sophomore album soon, and oh my god it’s so good.
- Continuum have a new album on the way, and you can jam a single right here. This is some pretty slick proggy tech death, and Riley McShane’s vocals are as nasty as ever. Look for this one on February 22nd, out through Unique Leader.
- If you need some weird shit to get you through your day, the new Desecravity is now streaming in full. I haven’t had as much time to sit with this as I’d like, but my first impressions are positive. Anathema lands tomorrow on Willowtip.
- On the other hand, if you just need some chunky grooves, then the new Aenimus is exactly what you want. Check out “The Dark Triad” here, and look for Dreamcatcher on February 22nd.
- Newcomers Anomalism dropped their debut early this month, and I’m just getting to it now. It sounds pretty sweet so far, with a nice mixture of bouncy riffs and shreds.
There’s no feeling quite like getting sent an album that does everything you like.
Way back in 2015, I stumbled onto A Novelist while trawling Bandcamp in a frantic, alcohol-fueled search for something good to write about, and boy did they deliver. Portraits, the band’s debut, is one of those rare tech albums that revels in extremity without making it the sole focus of the music. The performances are crazy, to be sure, but it’s as much about blasting through a bevy of musical ideas as it is about lightspeed shredding. It’s still one of my favorite finds, and I’ve been excited for this followup for a long time. With the album’s release right around the corner, I figure now’s a good time to tell you why you should be excited, too.
Folie, while keeping much of the duo’s core songwriting tenets intact, differs in a lot of ways from its predecessor. Where the debut was much more traditionally “tech death,” channeling the band’s virtuosity through wild and unhinged riffs (and maybe a little lounge music), Folie aims to draw in listeners through hooks and unique melodic ideas. Its songs are much shorter for the most part, and as a result, much more focused. I loved Portraits’ wild forays through multiple themes in a single song, but the tunes on the new album stick instantly. They pull you in with a brilliant guitar lead or powerful vocal line and take that theme further, delving deeper into it as the song goes along. I don’t want to say one songwriting method is better than the other, but the band’s new approach really works for them here.
Of course, there are tons of melodic prog albums out there, so what is it about this one that sets it apart? Unfortunately, that’s a bit hard to quantify; beyond the surface aesthetics- the jazz parts, the clean vocals, the lyrical themes regarding the persecution of good people- the album just feels different from its peers, even when the typical tech tropes are at the forefront of the song. The dueling lead guitars, for example, explore a lot of the same range as you’d hear from other bands, but the note choice and chord progression creates this atmosphere more reminiscent of film noir than tech death. Jazz fusion appears in progressive music in all types, but you rarely hear the bouncy, groovy side of it, and it comes out in a couple spots on Folie. The band just does things that you don’t hear other bands do; I know that’s a cop-out answer to the question posed earlier, but I think you’ll pick up on what I’m talking about when you listen.
Perhaps the biggest change is in the vocals. There’s a lot more singing on Folie than Portraits, much to the album’s benefit. Ben’s singing voice is very strong- probably stronger than the screams, to be honest (though the transition from clean to scream in “Stockholm Blues” is savage)- and his performance calls to mind Chris Clancy of Mutiny Within and Riley McShane on the last Son of Aurelius record. The raw and impassioned delivery is perfect for the melodies they carry, counterbalancing the intense instrumentals behind them. I love it when technical bands can integrate this style of emotive singing into their music, and Folie has some of the best use of it out there.
Even the parts around the music- the production, the mix, and so on- have been stepped up. Not that the last album sounded bad, but this just sounds a lot cleaner and tighter. The overall balance between each instrument is more even, too; it’s always nice to be able to hear everything, but it’s necessary with the heavier layering this go around. It makes the variety of textures stand out that much more, and ensures a pleasant listen for the album’s run.
If I’m being honest here, I had a hard time trying to approach this album from an objective viewpoint, whatever that means for a music reviewer. Folie is exactly my type of album, with a ton of melody and variety from song to song, great performances, and new ideas. Even the parts that are clearly influenced by other bands don’t feel like they’re jacked straight from those artists’ playbooks; there’s always a new spin put on those parts, always something unexpected around the corner, and I love this album for that. This is the type of thing that other prog bands should aspire to.
Folie releases on February 8th through A Novelist’s Bandcamp, where they currently have four tracks available for streaming. Be sure to follow the band on Facebook as well; they deserve the attention. That’s all for this time, so until next week,
Is your band tech as heck? Got a juicy piece of news or an upcoming release to watch? Send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll check it out. I might even talk about it.