It’s been about nine years since Novembre released their last full-length album, The Blue. A series of lineup changes, which included the departure of longtime drummer Giuseppe Orlando, hindered the long-running Italian band’s progress. But founding member and writer Carmelo Orlando and longtime guitarist Massimiliano Pagliuso used this downtime to revamp their lineup and return to Novembre fresh. The result of this revitalization is URSA – a 60-minute journey through tranquil landscapes crafted by the melding between doom, melodic death metal and Gothic sensibilities.
The sounds of waves crashing upon a shoreline on “Australis” draw the listener in, as serene guitar melodies, blankets of atmosphere and ethereal vocals slowly fade into view. Soon the track explodes into a triumphant march of towering, shimmering chords and expressive, melancholic solos that wash the entire track in pure sonic bliss. “The Rose” follows next with an array of galloping riffs that engage in tug-of-war with melodic doom onslaughts and shoegaze-esque walls of sound. Here Orlando balances his spectral clean vocals with scathing growls, switching between the two depending upon the aggressiveness of a particular part.
A couple of particular standout tracks include “Bremen” and “Agathae”. “Bremen”, the album’s penultimate composition starts of with traditional Novembre ambient flair before it unleashes storming, bouncing metal riffs that bleed into lumbering Gothic doom, and further into wavering soundscapes. The nine-minute behemoth “Agathae” is the album’s most experimental and sonically varied track. It begins with nearly four minutes of folk-adjacent instrumentation drenched in colorful, airy soundscapes and progressive solo work. Soon thunderous, primal percussion and a razor-sharp guitar riff makes their presence known and sets the stage for a blistering thrash metal-style attack. This galloping onslaught is soon replaced by black metal inspired instrumentation and more of Novembre‘s pleasant and pummeling doom and gloom.
But other than the track’s listed previously, and the occasional shift in tempo and direction, URSA is very sonically consistent album. In fact, it may be too consistent. Most of the tracks do not have enough variety to standout from among the pack, and with an over 60-minute run-time, that can cause a bit of drag. While the songs are full of enthralling, undeniably gorgeous passages, they utilize a lot of similar approaches which can be bit draining to listen to repeatedly. Overall URSA doesn’t really offer anything drastically different than what previous albums The Blue and Materia brought to the table. It’s not a bad record by any means, but it is definitely more of the same from Novembre.
Release Date: April 1, 2016
Label: Peaceville Records
Favorite Tracks: “Australis”, “Agathae” and “Bremen”
For Fans Of: Alcest, Anathema and Katatonia