Tales From The Soul
Audio CD | Import
Although together for only a brief time, Dutch progressive metal newcomers NovAct have begun to make a name for themselves in the metal world. On the basis of a strong four song demo the band was invited to perform at both the Headway Festival and ProgPo
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As to the album itself - I'm sure Tales from the Soul is a perfectly decent progressive metal album, but that just isn't enough for me anymore. Maybe I'm just burned out on the genre after years of buying just about anything with the InsideOut logo, but for a prog metal act to really move me it has to be a pretty spectacular band (see Pain of Salvation, Vanden Plas, Evergrey, and more recently Circus Maximus and Vanishing Point). NovAct just isn't thrilling me like those bands do. The musicianship is at a high level, and I already mentioned the vocals, but I don't see anything that would set this band apart from the rest of the pack.
If you have a real love for all things progressive metal, then by all means check out Tales from the Soul. If you're looking for something noteworthy or special, you may want to keep looking. (Typing Vanishing Point in the search engine would be a great way to start!)
If you like Symphony X, Arena, RPWL, Kino, Marillion, Rush, Nightwish, and other melodic prog/heavy, you'll LOVE this one! This is NOT Sharply Condemned (as some of the reviews seem to suggest) - this is Highly Recommended!
Tales from the Soul (subtitled To Those Who Understand) immediately impresses with its huge, slick production with plenty of breathing space for the vocals and instruments to shine through. Handled by Everon members, it really enhances the already amazing music and elevates it to higher levels. First set of listens hint at certain Vanishing Point similarites, even though NovAct executes stronger yet less evident melodic sensibilities. Their songwriting is never too complex or over-the-top; on the contrary, it has almost a poppy feel in spots, but at the same time, the songs are loaded with indestructible melodies carefully hidden beneath the arrangements "to those who understand". Add Eddy Borremans to your favourite prog singers list; he defines the character of NovAct with his almost classic rock styled vocals that can smoothly transform into an aggressive style when necessary. I am vaguely reminded of three particular singers when I hear Borremans sing, not so in tone, but in phrasing and delivery. If you like Vanden Plas' Beyond Daylight masterpiece, upon hearing this disc, you will immediately identify with the Andy Kuntz-like singing, especially on the songs "Hope and Fear" and "Path of Daggers". NovAct employs Borremans' versatile singing in a similar approach; his vocals are placed over spacious keyboard lines with textural guitars and rhythm work. The Kuntz comparison is mostly existing in the choruses of the songs. Wouter Wamelink's playing on "Hope and Fear" recalls Ron Jarzombek's untouchable guitar solo on the first Gordian Knot disc. Again, listening to this disc, these comparisons may escape you, or you may disagree completely, but this is what leaps out at me.
Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow also seems to be an influence on Eddy Borremans. The anti-war themed "Nothing Worth Fighting For" exemplifies this by displaying excellent variations of vocal melodies. I am also reminded of the singer from Mindflow, but then he is also a Gildenlow fan, so that's normal I think. Borremans is also a terrific lyricist. He writes about war, terrorism ("Sharply Condemned"), corruption in politics ("Promises") as well as more tragic events such as child abuse ("Flower") and the effects of religion ("Bad Religion"). The third track, "Eternal Life", is a song in memory of the great Jeff Buckley, who I assume was a big inspiration for Borremans; the song features an impressive high scream complemented by crunchy guitars and cooperating bass lines.
The album spans over 52 minutes and, while there isn't a single filler here, some of the most mesmerizing moments are the elegant keyboards by Michiel Reesink in the intro of "Hope and Fear" and "So Help Me God". Reesink's keyboard melody runs parallel to Warmelink's velvet-like guitar riffs on the latter creating a nice tapestry in the song. None of the songs are overtly long, nor are they too heavy or too mellow. It's always very balanced with occasional time signatures, as on the heavy "Promises" characterized by fierce drumming courtesy of Martijn Peters, plodding bass and the amalgamation of heavy guitars and lofty keyboards. Strange as it may seem, I believe fans of Mac-era Threshold may love this song. The rhythm duo is solid as a rock too. Jeroen Van Maan on bass really cuts loose on the final track or "The Rider", which is the shortest piece on the album, and contains an emotionally charged guitar solo that will send shivers down your spine.
Sensory Records (and Laser's Edge) is quickly becoming my favourite prog metal label. Thanks to Ken Golden for adding another brilliant band to the realms of progressive music. This disc is essential and flawless from musicianship to production to artwork (just look at the cover art and see for yourself). I am amazed!
This is not your typical progressve rock/ metal album with traditional way of handling vocals/harmonies. The band really pushes the envelope in terms of showing how to write and play not so technically sophisticated, yet dark, catchy and even radio friendly songs incorporating some of that modern sound, while staying true to their progressive metal's roots.
Yes, the vocals take a little time (just a few spins) to get used to, but if you are patient enough, you will be rewarded as the singer will get under your skin with his emotional way of singing. He does have a unique style and it fits the music perfectly.