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Novena: Eleventh Hour
Novena - Eleventh Hour Art Work

Novena: Eleventh Hour

Progressive Metal
3.5/5.0

Novena arrived on the UK prog scene some four years ago. The band features Haken vocalist Ross Jennings associated with five other talented musicians from England. The fledgling band dropped a short, avant garde prog, EP Secondary Genesis in 2016. This was followed by appearances at UK Tech-Fest, and supporting bands such as Skyharbor, Vola, and Sithu Aye. (Never heard of any of those cats.) Now, Novena returns with their full-length debut album, Eleventh Hour. While a 'novena" is a Catholic ritual of nine days of prayer, I'm pretty sure this Novena has nothing to do with Christianity, Catholicism, or religion in general.

Novena - Click For Larger Image

Novena

Honestly, musically speaking, I'm not sure what's going on with Novena and Eleventh Hour. I can say with some certainty that this is a mixture of progressive of rock and metal, with some obvious avant garde nuances. (My first impression was Haken meets Leprous, but that didn't last long.) Even with a few spins of the album, Novena's music didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Mostly, I was confused or the music confused me. I'm not sure. I was immediately perplexed (maybe even put off) a the start of the album where the first "song" was no song at all, but silence. It was "nothing" like the essence of a Seinfeld episode. I had to rewind. What's happening here?

What the arrangements sounded like was a piece meal composition of overlooked or forgotten, eclectic and odd musical components that had been brewing among many individual musical minds. It's like the band members had all these various and sundry musical ideas written on note cards and then pinned them to a large cork board. Then they gathered, stepped back to look at the musical wonders they had created, and then dabbled with and massaged these parts until they became the songs you hear within Eleventh Hour. Such components include, but are not limited to, shifting tempo changes, odd time signatures, agile and complex guitar solos, liberal and ambitious poly-rhythms, the juxtaposition of light and heavy moments both in vocal and instrument arrangements, and a strong smattering of death growling. That latter device, as faithful readers know, is a deal breaker for this listener.

Which leads me to at least one conclusion: I found if I subtracted the vocal arrangements, I was more able to appreciate Novena's progressive metal, including the complexity of the arrangements, and especially the amazing guitar work. Yet, to get to that summation required too much work on my part. I love prog. I am, by some definition, a prog wonk and, sometimes, an annoying and capricious one at that. In the end, I guess I'm still not sure what to make of Novena and Eleventh Hour. They probably don't deserve the lesser score I gave them, simply because the band is quite talented. Actually, if I had my druthers, I would not have given the album any score. (And by that, I don't mean zero, just no score. Which is another argument for eliminating scoring in the future.) Listen to the various videos and check out Novena for your own pleasure.


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The Bottom Line

Honestly, musically speaking, I'm not sure what's going on with Novena and Eleventh Hour. I can say with some certainty that this is a mixture of progressive of rock and metal, with some obvious avant garde nuances.

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