Novena – Eleventh Hour
Four years after the amazing debut EP “Secondary Genesis”, the English super group Novena is back with their first full-length album called “Eleventh Hour”, introduced with a clever promotion campaign featuring a clock advancing by one hour every two weeks, dropping one new
information related to the album every time the clock strikes.
According to songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist Harrison White:
“Eleventh Hour” is not a linear story concept album where we follow one character from a start point to a finish point, it’s more about exploring a theme. “The Eleventh Hour” is fundamentally about our relationship as a species to death. Because death is something we will all experience, but it’s something that’s very hard to understand and describe, and everyone’s experiences of it are entirely unique. And I wanted to explore what that meant, really think about the lead-up to this point, and what the final chapter of a person’s life was really like.
And so, you have these multiple characters, all approaching the end of their lives, and I wanted
to set these stories in different times, different places and different scenarios so we have quite a
wide spectrum to build all these stories and be able to explore all the different facettes from
It’s ’22:58′, someone is walking towards his car, while a singing choir can be heard in the
distance. At this point, we still have no idea how the album is going to sound, but let’s go one
minute into the future to see what happens. ’23:59′. The choir now resonates at full volume. Then the band enters and the similarities to Haken are obvious, but rapidly leave the place to something more brutal, engaged by heavy guitar riffs and drums, as well as the roaring sound of Gareth Mason‘s (Slice the
Cake) growling vocals. Ross Jennings takes the mic again, and the song starts to feel like a polished, more cohesive version of ‘Drowning in the Flood’ by Haken, with its heavy riffs and Ross singing like he’s in a Hard-rock band. Near the end, the ’22:59′ choir theme is reused in a mesmerizing final chorus, until the sound of a bell makes a term to the track.
‘Sun Dance’ is the third single released by the band. For this one, the Phrygian scale sets the tone for the music as soon as the song starts, and leaves a sensation of heat throughout the track, but what instantly caught my attention right from the beginning was Moat Lowe’s (Slugde) impressive bass line. One of the best I could hear this year. To summarize, Sun Dance is an effective, adventurous song, catchy with a touch of darkness, as if something important was happening at this precise moment. The band also released a music video for this song, in which you can see two people doing what is supposed to be the sun dance.
Novena – Sun Dance (click here if the video doesn’t play)
‘Disconnected’ was the first single released by the band. This is in my opinion the most obvious choice for a single as it is the most ‘easy-listening’; song on the record. However, the album version differs from the single as a choir section introduces us to the song, as you can hear in ’22:59′. The rest of the song is vocal-driven, and the melodies and harmonies are catchy and uplifting in a similar way as Haken did with their single ‘Earthrise’.
Novena – Disconnected (click here if the video doesn’t play)
‘Sail Away’ starts with Gareth Mason throwing a speech over some piano chords, followed by Ross’ soothing voice, at this point you already know that this song would be the ballad of the album as the atmosphere is so calm and relaxing. After a small guitar solo, the second verse kicks in with beautiful and captivating vocal harmonies by Gareth, and Ross still singing all over it. This is the most relaxing song of the album, but this peaceful sensation isn’t going to last long as the next song ‘Lucidity’ instantly gets brutal as soon as the intro kicks in. The intro fades and leaves place for what is the best vocal moment of the album, Ross throwing all his heart and soul in the high notes he delivers. The first half of the song switches between heavy and calm moments, every part of it delivering a different atmosphere. Piano takes a prominent place, with its jazzy chords adding some tension even in the quietest parts. But it’s in the second half that Lucidity exploits its full potential. Here, a dissonant guitar background supports a speech from Gareth, and “Odyssey to the West” by his band Slice the Cake instantly comes to my mind, as this mind-blowing piece of art is filled with these kinds of moments.
As its name implies, the Hispanic influences are coming back in ‘Corazón’, but this time in a different way. The heavy riffs are still here, but they’re this time supported with a lot of vocals harmonies reminiscent to what Haken did in songs like ‘Crystallised’ or ‘Pareidolia’. But suddenly, near the middle of the song, the biggest twist of the record shows up. The music stops. Hands start clapping, and here we go, the song turns into a full flamenco piece, with astonishing Spanish female vocals provided by guest vocalist Luisa Santiago. This is one of the most impressive and well executed twists I have ever heard in music, reaching the same heights as ‘The Sky is Red’ by Leprous.
‘Indestructible’ is as straightforward as its name lets us assume. I don’t have a lot to say about it
except the fact this is a heavy, fast-paced metal song, with lots of dissonances and powerful drums. It doesn’t have anything revolutionary, but it’s executed to perfection and is a great transition to the next track called ‘The Tyrant’ which sets the bar of heaviness even higher and has a more progressive approach of songwriting.
Novena – Indestructible (click here if the video doesn’t play)
The final track, ‘Prison Walls’, peaking at 15 minutes and 9 seconds, is the longest in the record. Its intro makes me think a lot of the previously released song named ‘Secondary Genesis’ which was the title track from the debut EP released in 2015.
To sum up, this song is the perfect combination of everything you can find in the record. From
the Haken-like joyful and melodic verses, to destructive speeches over dissonant soundscapes à
la Slice The Cake, or even the angelic choirs from the earlier tracks, everything is here. And yet
the band displays a surreal sense of songwriting here, by a perfectly coherent structure. Each
part of the song is so different, but the transitions make them flow like water, until the climax of
the album is reached at the very end by the highest chest voice note Ross has ever belted on
As a conclusion, “Eleventh Hour” encompasses every aspect of the EP “Secondary Genesis”,
and adds to it by incorporating more various and diverse influences. Novena prove the world
that they were more than just a good prog-metal band, by delivering a record made with a
notably mature sense of songwriting and creativity.
- Sun Dance
- Sail Away
- The Tyrant
- Prison Walls