Novus Rex is a new keyboards based progressive rock project from Colorado Springs featuring founder J.R.Fernandez (keyboards, guitars, drums and vocals) and A.I.Fernandez on bass, guitars and drums. The late Anthony Davis sang lead on the opening track and the album features additional drumming by Scott Rockenfield.
Plowshares Into Swords is an enjoyable album, albeit with some flaws. Its high points come courtesy of some very fine keyboard sounds. Right from the off, "Look! It's Coming" has some great key sounds and playing, reminiscent of Klaus Schulze at this point and the track maintains a high impact until the onset of the vocals which, as elsewhere on the album, don't mesh well with the music. Vocals are, of course, incredibly difficult to integrate well into this sort of progressive keyboard led music that verges on electronica - even the great Schulze tried it under a pseudonym (just as well; the least said about his efforts the better!). The only example that I can think of that was entirely successful is Jon Anderson's collaborations with Vangelis. It's this element of Plowshares Into Swords that is the least pleasant, despite Fernandez having added significant elements of guitar into subsequent compositions, perhaps as a way of easing the singing. As a specific example, on "Look! It's Coming", we are really enjoying the keyboard sounds, the playing, the rhythm; then along come the vocals and disrupt all three, without adding anything substantive (like a killer melody) in return.
Essentially, the opening track proves to be a microcosm for the whole: the most pleasant sections continue to be dominated by the keys; the guitars and vocals almost acting as spoilers, but they do increase in prominence to the extent that we almost lose the keyboard domination.
There are some strong rhythmic, march-like, sections in "Truth Seeker" and the title track that reminded me of music from The Enid's most recent album, Journey's End, but one hankers back to the symphonic keys of the opening. I'm guessing that Fernandez thought that he had to mix it up a bit for an album. I would say that he needs to be brave and either write for vocals or write symphonically: for me, this was not optimally combined on this debut album.
As a result, while there are undoubtedly some fine moments, it doesn't all quite gel as a whole, so the overriding sense the listener remains with is of a promise as yet unfulfilled: perhaps that will come with his next album, for which we wish Novus Rex well.
1) Look! It's Coming (7:45)
2) Old World News (8:22)
3) Truth Seeker (9:48)
4) Belleshazzar's Dream (8:10)
5) Plowshares Into Swords (10:15)
6) Locust Swarm (4:31)