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NovAct: Tales From the Soul

NovAct is a new prog metal band from Holland, and the fact that they are on Sensory Records was intriguing, since they only seem to sign the most brilliant bands around. As other Dutch bands, including Ayreon, Lemur Voice and Sun Caged, NovAct is no exception when it comes to taking the prog community by storm with their debut release. This album is an excellent release and hopefully just the beginning of other great releases to come in the future.

Tales from the Soul (subtitled To Those Who Understand) immediately impresses with its huge, slick production with plenty of breathing space for the vocals and instruments to shine through. Handled by Everon members, it really enhances the already amazing music and elevates it to higher levels. First set of listens hint at certain Vanishing Point similarites, even though NovAct executes stronger yet less evident melodic sensibilities. Their songwriting is never too complex or over-the-top; on the contrary, it has almost a poppy feel in spots, but at the same time, the songs are loaded with indestructible melodies carefully hidden beneath the arrangements "to those who understand". Add Eddy Borremans to your favourite prog singers list; he defines the character of NovAct with his almost classic rock styled vocals that can smoothly transform into an aggressive style when necessary. I am vaguely reminded of three particular singers when I hear Borremans sing, not so in tone, but in phrasing and delivery. If you like Vanden Plas' Beyond Daylight masterpiece, upon hearing this disc, you will immediately identify with the Andy Kuntz-like singing, especially on the songs "Hope and Fear" and "Path of Daggers". NovAct employs Borremans' versatile singing in a similar approach; his vocals are placed over spacious keyboard lines with textural guitars and rhythm work. The Kuntz comparison is mostly existing in the choruses of the songs. Wouter Wamelink's playing on "Hope and Fear" recalls Ron Jarzombek's untouchable guitar solo on the first Gordian Knot disc. Again, listening to this disc, these comparisons may escape you, or you may disagree completely, but this is what leaps out at me.

Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow also seems to be an influence on Eddy Borremans. The anti-war themed "Nothing Worth Fighting For" exemplifies this by displaying excellent variations of vocal melodies. I am also reminded of the singer from Mindflow, but then he is also a Gildenlow fan, so that's normal I think. Borremans is also a terrific lyricist. He writes about war, terrorism ("Sharply Condemned"), corruption in politics ("Promises") as well as more tragic events such as child abuse ("Flower") and the effects of religion ("Bad Religion"). The third track, "Eternal Life", is a song in memory of the great Jeff Buckley, who I assume was a big inspiration for Borremans; the song features an impressive high scream complemented by crunchy guitars and cooperating bass lines.

The album spans over 52 minutes and, while there isn't a single filler here, some of the most mesmerizing moments are the elegant keyboards by Michiel Reesink in the intro of "Hope and Fear" and "So Help Me God". Reesink's keyboard melody runs parallel to Warmelink's velvet-like guitar riffs on the latter creating a nice tapestry in the song. None of the songs are overtly long, nor are they too heavy or too mellow. It's always very balanced with occasional time signatures, as on the heavy "Promises" characterized by fierce drumming courtesy of Martijn Peters, plodding bass and the amalgamation of heavy guitars and lofty keyboards. Strange as it may seem, I believe fans of Mac-era Threshold may love this song. The rhythm duo is solid as a rock too. Jeroen Van Maan on bass really cuts loose on the final track or "The Rider", which is the shortest piece on the album, and contains an emotionally charged guitar solo that will send shivers down your spine.

Thanks to Ken Golden of Sensory Records/Lasers Edge for adding another brilliant band to the realms of progressive music. This disc is essential and flawless from musicianship to production to artwork (just look at the cover art and see for yourself). I am amazed!

Track Listing
1. Sharply Comdemned (4:34)
2. Hope and Fear (5:34)
3. Eternal Life (5:23)
4. Path of Daggers (4:53)
5. So Help Me God (7:01)
6. Flower (5:05)
7. The Rider (3:51)
8. Nothing Worth Fighting for (4:21)
9. Promises (6:02)
10. Bad Religion (5:36)

Added: May 10th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Novact Website
Hits: 4375
Language: english

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NovAct: Tales From the Soul
Posted by Steve Ambrosius, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-05-10 13:09:02
My Score:

Well maybe the old adage isn't true. I always heard that you never have a second chance to make a first impression. When I listened to Tales From The Soul by novAct, the first two songs had such a standard European Metal sound that I hardly paid any attention to the rest of the CD. It isn't that I don't like Metal, but just that the sound used on "Sharply Condemned" and "Hope And Fear" has been done enough times that I kind of quit listening intently.

The second time I played the CD I accidentally had the player on random and the first song that hit me was "Eternal Life". This was prog-metal at its creative best. From there came "Nothing Worth Fighting For", a rocking anthem that may be the most accessible song on the CD. I couldn't believe my ears. I thought I knew what to expect, but realized that I hadn't given novAct a fair shake.

So on third listen I again started from the beginning. This CD has amazing songwriting, dynamic playing, powerful lyrics and melody that doesn't quit. So once again I was struck by how average the first two songs are. The amazing trifecta of "Flower", "The Rider" and "Nothing Worth Fighting For" would have been perfect introduction to this band. "Path Of Daggers" has excellent harmony vocals that give it a unique feel. In fact, Eddy Borremans' vocals are absolutely amazing on the entire CD.

After many listens, I recommend this CD to anyone into Pain Of Salvation, Dream Theater, Sylvan, or Royal Hunt. Tales From The Soul may take several listens, but I can guarantee once it clicks with you, plenty of spins will not be a problem. This is novAct's first full length CD. It will be fun to watch how they mature.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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