Progressive Death Metal duo A Novelist is dropping their second album on February 8th and we have our opinion on the upcoming album, as well as an interview!
The guys have put out a unique and unusual album….much more weirder than what can be expected out of progressive bands. It’s very inconsistent and moody, which I loved from the get go. It’s emotional, without a doubt. It’s very melodic and jazzy at times, as well. I think it’s a very unique mix of music only artistic and musical people will enjoy more, as it’s not suited for commercial airwaves or your average person to be honest. Their vast sound goes back to classic prog rock artists of the 60’s and 70’s (with some keys/organs and some synth along the way), some gutturals and beautiful singing to compliment their ambience and heaviness. That isn’t the only influx of inspiration! Marc Linam was a guest musician on the album adding more weirdness that was a warm welcome….he did Tenor, Alto, Baritone and C melody saxophone! He also contributed Clarinet, oboe and flute to the album as well. Now you can see how wide, interesting and unusual the sound of A Novelist is! It’s so cool, and so breathtaking.
1. Folie Noire
5. His Kingdom is Vast
6. Strangers in the House of Auto-da-Fe
7. Acacia Crown
8. Caveat Lector
9. Stockholm Blues
11. Learning Paralysis
Ben Nugent – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keys, Effects
Alex Babineaux – Drums
This is definitely going to go down as one of the most unique, original and cooler releases of 2019. It’s going on the second (almost third) week of the year, so I might as well begin my best of 2019 list with releases like this and Marc Durkee’s! To further elaborate on their sound, there’s a lot of modern progressive influences like The Contortionist and Protest The Hero as well. A Novelist is one of the better best kept secrets, well that shouldn’t be a secret anymore to be honest. They’re so original not many bands I could rattle off for the heck of it are so original. Maybe the Dillinger Escape Plan because they were pretty tough to describe as well. They’re THAT unique. Ben’s guitar playing is so wild, yet can be very tame and melodic at points. He’s a pretty diverse guitar player Check out their upcoming release “Folie” and pre order it right here.
One of the less laid back songs, and more in your face technical wild offerings. There’s also some longer, wild epic adventures of insanity. This one is a straight tech shredder.
The interview was conducted with both members, Ben and Alex. Enjoy!
TMR: Can you explain to everyone else how “Folie” is different than your debut album “Portraits”?
A lot of time passed between the time Portraits was written versus the material for Folie. By the time Portraits was released, we had already written material for three additional albums and matured on our instruments quite a bit. With Folie, we took our time and focused a lot more on consistency, songwriting, and dynamics.
I think the biggest difference on this new album was our approach to songwriting. Portraits had a free flowing style where very few parts repeat, if ever. We made a serious attempt to improve our song structuring, and I think we really succeeded. Folie has a variety of different song structures ranging from traditional pop format to the free form style of Portraits.
TMR: I really love the wild sound you guys have created. What factors influenced you creating such artistic and unusual music? Was it because you wanted to stand out? Or is it just because your musical tastes are diverse and all over the place? It’s a truly wonderful album, by the way.
First off, thank you. We like to get weird. It’s always surprising to hear that someone else likes our music. By the time the album comes out, we have already played and recorded the material so many times and written so many variations of it that sometimes we can really lose our objectivity, though I can say that without a doubt that what other people like has zero influence on our writing. This album is just what we were hearing in our heads and what we were wanting to hear and play when we wrote the music. This album was actually written some time ago and an earlier version of one of the songs was written as far back as thirteen years ago. As far as influences are concerned, experience can obviously not be overlooked. To tell you the truth, I cannot offhand point to particular songs or albums that directly influenced anything that we have written. Feeling is a big part of what we do. I think that we are categorized sometimes as genre bending or tech death or whatever but none of those things occur to us at all when writing the material. We hear it, feel it, play it, and if it feels right, then we know it’s right. As far as bands or composers that definitely changed how I thought about music when I was younger I can give you these in no specific order, The Mars Volta, Necrophagist, The Black Dahlia Murder, Gorgoroth, Emperor, Behemoth, The Red Chord, At the Drive-in, Poison the Well, Hate Eternal, Pink Floyd, Obscura, Led Zeppelin, At the Gates, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Penderecki, Chopin, Beethoven, Hendrix, Radiohead, Miles Davis, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Opeth, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Allen Holdsworth, Immortal, Ray Charles, Dr. John, and James Brown.
The sound that we’ve arrived at on this album I think is part of a long progression for both of us that began before we ever met. I was never interested in making music in order to be popular or anything like that. I’ve only ever wanted to make music that I wanted to listen to. We’re both into a wide variety of music, and I think that really shows this time around. We made something that we can both enjoy as a fan as well as be proud of creatively. I really love this record, and it makes me happy that you feel the same way. I really appreciate that.
TMR: What motivated you guys to start the band? Was it a spur of the moment decision?
We just wanted to play extreme music. We were both looking for what the other person had for quite some time and when we found it, we jumped at the opportunity to play with each other.
As I said before, I’ve been wanting to make music for my own enjoyment since I was able to play. I had jammed with other people before, but I never made a commitment to any projects because they just weren’t doing it for me. When I met Ben in my first semester of college he showed me a few early A Novelist songs he had been working on. I was immediately blown away and wanted to play it. One of those songs was actually an old version of Strangers in the House of Auto-da-Fe which was then called Idee Fixe. I wouldn’t call it a spur of the moment decision, but as far as my involvement in the project was concerned, I knew this was the music for me in an instant.
TMR: Explain the theme of “Folie” and it’s artwork. How does it all connect? Is it a concept album?
If you are lucky, you will meet people in your life that make an immensely positive impact on who you become as a person. The album is a fictionalized account of the last five years of one of these people’s lives. It is also an attempt at some level to contribute to some commentary on the social climate currently in the US. In some ways what happened to this person is what Henry Rollins refers to as “The America”. This person gladly gave their whole life to other people and serving their community and in the end was absolutely devoured by it but never once complained. To me, the artwork symbolizes that we live in a world where everyone is a wolf, some just make an effort to appear otherwise. Folie is French for madness. We live in Louisiana where you have a lot of French heritage and interchanging of English and French words.
For this question I will defer to Ben’s answer. One cool thing to note though is that the artwork for the album is actually a painting that hung in our old practice space for several years. Beyond its symbolic meaning in relation to the content of the album, there’s also a personal and sentimental value to it for me, and I think for Ben too. We made a lot of memories in that place, and it makes me extremely happy to see that image on Bandcamp and all the various streaming platforms.
Looks like the guys are being held hostage….?
TMR: Are there any plans to play shows promoting your music or is it strictly studio based?
You know, we had tried for years to get a working live lineup together. It is really difficult to find people that are dedicated enough to play this sort of material let alone learn it. We are also really busy in our personal lives. The times that we have found musicians that could play the material, they had other stuff going on. In the future, it would be great to play some shows, but currently we are a studio project.
For the time being, we are strictly studio based. We played one show back in 2011 when we had somewhat of a working lineup going, but it wasn’t great and we weren’t really ready for that. Since then it’s just been Ben and I, and finding musicians to play this stuff isn’t easy in Louisiana. It could possibly happen one day, but we both work a lot and live in separate cities so its not the easiest thing for us to put together. As it stands right now, our efforts are focused on recording the 3rd album.
TMR: How did you guys meet up to form A Novelist? Explain your band’s history.
I had been writing by myself for a while and at some point met another local guy and we scratched around for a bit, but that was ultimately not fruitful. We even hired Darren Cesca for some session drums, but honestly, at the time we were not serious enough to work with him. I’m sure this is common in most places, but in Louisiana, you have these pockets around the state where you have groups of really great players, but they are tiny and super difficult to find. Typically, they are in the larger cities like Lafayette, New Orleans, Shreveport, etc. These groups of players in each area will also make up several different acts. This is because where we live, there are very few people that listen to metal and even fewer playing it. If they do listen to metal, it is stuff like Pantera, Crowbar, Down, etc. which is great, but those people usually hate death metal or anything else fast. Oddly enough, those same people usually dig Goatwhore. In any event, fast playing is typically looked down on here even by people who claim to “play metal”. There really is a limited pool of players to draw from that like and/or can actually play death metal or black metal. So, you learn to play other instruments to pick up the slack. When you find someone who does play on the level, you are basically dying to jam with them to see if they can fit that piece of your puzzle. Before Alex and I played together we both had several instances of driving all over Louisiana to play with people who were “into metal”. Anyways, I moved to Lafayette for school and saw this guy in philosophy class with an Immortal shirt. He looked like a drummer, and I motioned so as to imitate someone playing a blast beat. He instantly knew what I was doing and the rest is history.
Ben and I met in Philosophy 101 at UL Lafayette back in I believe 2007. One day in particular I went to class in my Sons of Northern Darkness Immortal shirt. When I was walking to my desk Ben called my name a made this gesture at me with his hands like he was playing a blast beat while mouthing the words “do you?” or something along those lines if my memory serves me correct. I remember laughing because I have no idea how he made that call, but I shook my head yes and we got to talking after class. We ended up realizing some time later that we had met once before at a Derek Roddy drum clinic when I was in high school, but that was a pretty brief encounter. It didn’t take long after our first conversation for Ben to start emailing me song demos and new riffs and stuff. The first time we played together it was just for fun and I don’t think we had established I would be the actual drummer for this project since he had already been paying Darren Cesca for session work. It must have gone pretty well because I started driving up to Ben’s place weekly not long after that.
TMR: What is your favorite song off of “Folie” you enjoy the most or are the most proud of?
Well, I am proud of all the songs on the album, but I can give you my top five.
Strangers in the House of Auto da Fe is a song that I originally wrote thirteen years ago. I knew it had a lot of potential but it wasn’t right at the time, so I held on to it, and we worked it over. It’s like The Little Engine That Could.
Caveat Lector is the fourth part of a suite of six songs that are supposed to be played from beginning to end. Often times when you record stuff, the final result after production may not be what you had in mind. With this song, it is exactly what I heard in my head. I think it’s a very dynamic song and sort of showcases our writing and playing abilities.
Interiors is the last song on the album and is another song that was originally written aeons ago that was re-worked into something really impressive considering its origins.
Tombeau is the third song on the album. The title of the song is taken from a type of French funerary song written for lute and guitar. This song had some of my craziest guitar work on it at the time this album was written and I am still very proud of it. Musically, it serves as an homage to the guitarists that really influenced my playing.
Apparitions is the fourth song on the album. This is another song that I think showcases our writing and playing ability really well. This song is also sort of an homage to all those bands that let me know it’s okay to get weird.
My favorite song to listen to is “Interiors”. It’s the first “new” song that we demoed after completing work on Portraits, and I’ve been really attached to it ever since. It’s been reworked a lot since its original inception, but it’s only gotten better I think. I personally am a big fan of music on the more somber side, and I think this one has some pretty soul crushing moments.
TMR: Time to choose between your two children. What album do you guys like more? If it’s the new album, we understand, it’s your newest addition to the family.
Easily Folie. I have a weird relationship with Portraits because I think I’m a different musician now than I was then. When I listen to it I think of all the things I would have done differently. I still think it’s good, but Folie is a much more focused effort.
TMR: How do you think you have grown as artists between “Portraits” and the upcoming release “Folie”? What did you set out to do differently or did the music and writing just flow?
Hopefully, as you get older your playing branches out and becomes better and more diverse. Those two things are not mutually exclusive, but it seems evident to me in our playing and writing. After a while of playing together, you sort of slowly start getting the bullshit out. It’s all an exercise with the goal of getting to that sort of unadulterated mainline. I don’t know that we ever set out to do anything other than make the album we wanted to hear. There are a lot of things that you notice later that are just a byproduct of your writing. I think that we have both learned each other’s writing styles, but still know how to make each other uncomfortable. I think that is how you grow. We can push each other to the point of insanity at times, but there is always resolution because we get each other and that’s a special thing.
Playing with Ben in general has been pushing me to grow as a musician since day 1. He has that sort of quality about him that makes you want to try and keep up. I’d say the area in which I’ve grown the most between these two releases is in my writing. I’ve learned to incorporate some styles and elements that come from outside of metal and worked them into these fast and heavy songs. I learned to have more fun when making these songs instead of pushing myself to only play faster, or only write heavier. The drums are still pretty intense though given this change in approach, but I find they just make more sense now. One new thing you may notice is some of these songs incorporate different variations of what are referred to as “Dirk blasts” named after Dirk Verbeuren. If you’re not familiar with what this is, I highly recommend checking the technique out on youtube. It’s some really fun stuff to play, and it opens some options up to the drummer to maintain high speeds without killing yourself.
TMR: Who are some of your favorite underground bands of any genre you’re into right now? Provide links too, so our followers can check ’em out! That’s what we are here for, to promote and share great music!
Forming the Void – https://www.facebook.com/formingthevoid/
Arbre Mort – https://www.facebook.com/arbremortmetal/
Aequus Nox – https://aequusnox.bandcamp.com/
Feral Errol – https://www.facebook.com/feralerrolband/
Golgothan – https://www.facebook.com/Golgothanla/
Trance Farmers – https://www.facebook.com/TranceFarmers/
I don’t typically gravitate to much techy music these days, or a whole lot of death metal in general. I still really like that stuff, but my attention has just gone elsewhere in recent years. I’ve been really into a lot of Blackgaze bands for a while now (.neon by Lantlos is one of my favorite albums ever), and even am working on a project in that style called Good Hunter. I’m also pretty into Atmospheric Black metal, and I guess what would be considered “post-black” and things of that sort. Possibly my favorite album of 2018, Ember, was written by a Blackgaze band called Trautonist who I think deserves a lot more attention. I’ve also been digging White Ward’s debut from 2017. They have similar ideas to us when it comes to incorporating Noir elements and saxophone in metal music, but with an approach all their own. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Mare Cognitum, Mol, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, An Autumn for Crippled Children, Heretoir, Drab Majesty, Grave Pleasures, A Forest of Stars, and Unreqvited lately.
TMR: What do you do for fun? Tell us a bit about yourselves outside of the wide world of music.
Music is what I do for fun. Alex and I also both play and write in a black metal band called Nethermost Majesty with our good friend Eric Clark. We are working on putting out an album soon. Alex also has a project he’s working on with our good friend Ty Hebert. I am currently working on a piano/vocal album that is in the vein of some more traditional Louisiana music. The third album for A Novelist is already. We are taking our time to get it just right, but it will definitely be our most intense album to date.
Apart from music I’m really into fighting games. Stuff like Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, Guilty Gear, etc. There’s a pretty thriving competitive scene for these games, and I like to follow it the same as I do something like football (go Saints). Typically I like to use my free time doing important things that matter, like taking funny pictures of my cats wearing costumes or spending way too much energy making bad memes.
TMR: Now, list your biggest underdog or up and coming band you think is gonna be a huge hitter or influence in the metal or prog or tech scenes. Choose one band only!
This will probably seem lame, but I don’t find many new bands that I really like a lot. As far as underground bands that could really blow up, there is a band from Lafayette, La called Forming the Void. They are a really solid proggy doom band, and I could imagine them gaining critical acclaim for sure.
This one is tough because I don’t listen to many bands of the tech or prog varieties that aren’t already pretty established. I will say though that I think 10 or so years from now, Inferi will be regarded as one of the biggest bands in the scene.