NOVENA - Eleventh Hour
Album: Eleventh Hour
Genre: Progressive Metal
Release Date: 6 March 2020
Label: Frontiers Records
Earlier this year, my monthly shout-out for Blessed Altar Zine began with the words: “I’m in love… I’m in love with an album, that caught me totally unexpected, but doesn’t let me go anymore.” I wrote about NOVENA’s “Eleventh Hour” back then, and meanwhile this record is well on the way to become my absolute favorite of 2020. It was released on 6 March via Frontiers Records and is their debut album, but some band members might be well-known already, as there are Ross Jennings (Haken) and Gareth Mason (Slice The Cake) on vocals, Harrison White (guitar/keyboard/percussion), guitarist Dan Thornton, bassist Matthew “Moat” Lowe (Sludge), and drummer Cameron Spence (Ravenface).
“Eleventh Hour” tells stories about death, shares different thoughts and feelings that we all can have regarding it. Starting with a short intro, “2258”, in which you can hear someone walking to open a door, a choir in the background leads to “2259”. From now on, the music develops in waves, the great dynamic in the song-writing is there from the beginning, as well as in the rhythms. I love this kind of musical, varied drumming, that supports the songs perfectly, but doesn't overlay or smashes them. The vocals are a mix of clean and harsh, by different singers. The contrast between the warm voice of Ross Jennings with his wide range and the rough growls of Gareth Mason gives the music a strong expression.
Track No 3, the mesmerizing “Sun Dance”, always warms my heart, and so does the accompanying video with two dancers, which might be unusual for this genre, but is stunning because of its energy.
“Disconnected” shines thanks to the great vocal performance and the polyphonic background harmonies. “Sail Away” is the most peaceful track on the album: starting with a few piano notes and spoken words, you just want to close your eyes and… sail away.
The point on which “Eleventh Hour” turns from an amazing prog album to something very special for me is “Lucidity”. The first songs are great, but even more happens from now on. The musical changes are awesome, but everything evolves with an incredibly natural flow. I don’t want to go too detailed, as I think it deserves to be explored by yourself, but I highly recommend to give this epic a listen.
“Corazón“ brings a lighter side to the (turn)table, but nevertheless with a certain kind of melancholy, until hard-hitting riffs and growls join in, just to be replaced by rhythmic hand clapping, and to end with a flamenco. These are the moments that could have easily become artificial or ridiculous, but somehow, everything fits perfectly together.
Next up is “Indestructible”, which starts groovy and straight forward, but gets more dissonant parts later on, that carry the listener directly to the great finale: “The Tyrant” and “Prison Walls”. These two songs have so many musical and emotional turns, are beautiful and brutal in one, it’s mind blowing! And they show the brilliance of this band once more.
“Eleventh Hour” is a fantastic debut. Thanks to the excellent production, you can hear each instrument, without losing the overall sound, and there are many details waiting to be discovered. All songs can be played on their own, but the real magic develops when you listen to "Eleventh Hour" from the beginning to the end. The variety in their song-writing is incredible, the mix of styles and different kind of vocals brings in all kind of emotions, so do the spoken words, but everything is in a natural flow. Listening to this album feels like drifting on a river: starting slowly on a sunny day, you come along interesting landscapes, but the ride gets wilder the further you go, with deep and ice-cold waters, dangerous rapids and dark canyons. In the end, “Eleventh Hour” leaves me overwhelmed every time… just to press play again.
Did you miss this masterpiece so far? Take a seat and enjoy the ride!!!
Ross Jennings - Vocals
Gareth Mason - Vocals
Harrison White - Guitar / Keyboards
Dan Thornton - Guitar
Matthew "Moat" Lowe - Bass
Cameron Spence - Drums
3. Sun Dance
5. Sail Away
9. The Tyrant
10. Prison Walls
Secondary Genesis (EP) - 2016
Eleventh Hour - 2020