As an unsigned experimental metal band hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Novallo have recently released their second EP, simply titled Novallo II. At first glance, one will find many staples of the progressive metal scene featured in full, with heavily synchronized instrumentation, start-stop fretwork, and off-kilter groove juxtaposed with sweetly harmonized tenor vocals expectedly drawing swift comparisons to poster children Periphery. However, Novallo is somewhat successful in separating themselves from the herd of cookie-cutter prog metal acts that have arisen in the last several years, and this is achieved mainly through experimentation.
There is a cyber-metal flavor that pervades the majority of Novallo II, though where many other groups would entrust this layer of the music to a keyboardist, much of the bleeps, bloops, and buzzes originate on the guitar and are passed through various effects, à la Tom Morello. Most rhythm guitar lines and riffs are layered atop pitch-shifted versions of themselves, acting either as high pitched, whining leads, or chunky, grinding accent to the main guitar line. These effects add textures to the whole which are mainly experienced in modern electronic music, and while the heavily studio-refined sound of the disc can understandably be a turn-off to some, it definitely lends Novallo a distinctiveness which helps to identify them in a sea of otherwise unremarkable drop-tuned chugsters.
Throughout the five full songs on Novallo II, the band does touch on a number of genres which weave themselves in and out of songs, though metal is always the end product. “Betty Phage Goes to Bronxton” begins with a sinister, meandering lick, introducing the listener to the hectic staccato instrumentation of the album, and sports an extremely entertaining bridge with a delightful, swinging groove and vocal character which evokes images of a cyberpunk 1920s America. “I AM” is also an album highlight, acting as more of an electronic dance-inspired track with its impressively flavorful drumming and smooth head vocals which almost manage to channel Justin Timberlake in a largely satisfying chorus hook. Other songs on the album, however, while never abrasive or uninspired, do not manage to cultivate the staying power of the previously described tracks. “Sideways Bird” carries a ripping main riff, but its chorus leaves a bit to be desired. The delayed clean sounds and delicate piano melodies of “Give Gravity a Choice” are a welcome change of pace, and listeners are treated to one of the stronger vocal performances of the record, but the song’s climax feels mainly as if it is born out of necessity, rather than genuine inspiration. “White Phoenix” is absolutely enjoyable, but is unfortunately distracting in its blatant payment of homage to Periphery, though some may posit the entirely valid argument that more of a good thing is never unwelcome.
Before all, though, Novallo absolutely must be commended on crafting a spectacularly produced EP on their own dime. Artists on major record labels have released more poorly recorded material than this unsigned foursome from the midwest, and this fact certainly earns Novallo II much of any praise it receives. If anything, Novallo’s latest EP shows that its members possess a higher than average of songwriting sense, and absolutely have the technical talent to make waves in the progressive metal community; they primarily need to embrace their own identity wholeheartedly in order to gain the edge needed to chisel their names into the wall of prog metal greatness.
Visit Novallo at their Facebook page here.