Don't you kind of hate it, when you receive a highly anticipated release, full of expectations and then when you actually listen to the album you do not necessarily feel disappointed, but rather unsure of your own opinion about the effort at hand? "The Novella Reservoir" is one of these CDs.
Now Ohioan NOVEMBERS DOOM never had been known as a stagnant band by any means, just looking at the evolution between the pure Doom/Death of their debut "Amid Its Hallowed Mirth" from 1995 up to 2005's highly anticipated release of "The Pale Departure" proves this, but even the band's announcement to have gone for a faster, more aggressive approach to their music did not prepare me for the opening sounds of "Rain", the first song off their brand new album "The Novella Reservoir".
Having said debut in my possession, I know that Paul Kuhr can grunt with the best of them, but albeit good, "Rain" sounds more like many other Death Metal bands out there, not really like NOVEMBERS DOOM... The following title track loosens things up a lot, though, going back to the Doomy moods and coupling the again very prominent deep growls with smooth clear vocals and also some great ethereal guitars, so there still is a connection to the past. A connection that you seriously start to doubt, though, once "Drown The Inland Mere" kicks into motion, which is heavy, pretty fast and once again features Kuhr's harsh vocals, was the title track a fluke and we have NOVEMBERS DEATH in the player? There are some more melodic (also vocally) passages, but they rather emphasize the heaviness of the rest of the song than anything else. And then the truly excellent "Twilight Innocence", completely acoustic, with soft vocals as crass contrast, I am getting very confused here!
The NOVEMBERS DOOM of old come to mind, though, with "They Were Left To Die", which is slow and heavy, with this typical Doom vibe and both harsh and clear vocals, while the guitars of "Dominate The Human Strain" are heavy as heavy can be and despite being heavier than what we were used to from the Americans, it fits perfectly with the song! Actually one band that comes to mind in the heavier passages are UNLEASHED, as the pound-heavy riffing and the deep Death Metal voice remind me of the Swedes and Johnny Hedlund, might be just me, though.
Now how do you gather your thoughts after an album like this and come to a conclusion? Well, "The Novella Reservoir" definitely is not what I had expected it to be, but even in its very Death Metal influenced songs they sound better than the majority of bands actually gunning for this sound and the Doom has not yet exited the band's sound, so thumbs up from me, but beware, if you only discovered the band recently, you might be in for a surprising ride!
(Online January 25, 2007)