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Novela - Sanctuary CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.64 | 14 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars After slightly below average "Paradise Lost", Novela comes back to good form with their 4th studio album called "Sanctuary". For sure it isn't as phenomenal as truly symphonic rock debut record "La Songerie", but it's clear example of perfect mix of hard and progressive rock elements. Compared to previous album ("Paradise Lost") songs became slightly longer, so thanks to this musicians had more space for many, splendid instrumental sections where Egawa and Hirayama show what they're capable of. However for the first time they didn't bother to record any epic track, but it's better no epic than such crap like 3 parts boredom called "Requiem" from "Paradise Lost"...

It's important to mention that in the meantime Novela made many line-up changes. "Sanctuary" doesn't feature 2nd guitarist Mototsugu Yamane anymore, but instead we can finally see new bassist here - Ryuji Sasai (previous album had no bassist at all). Also drummer Eljiro Akita was replaced by Ryuichi Nishida. Especially incorporating of Sasai made a huge positive difference, 'cos his bass skills clearly shine throughout the album. It's really a blessing that his instrument is so exposed here (very untypical for 80s music).

Let's check the songs:

1. "Divine Comedy" - album starts very bad with some annoying spoken part (horrible English accent and electronic modulation). Thankfully after few seconds real music begin. Hisakatsu Igarashi sing in his usual over-the-top style (of course in Japanese) and Egawa plays tasty synth leads. I like Queen/Uriah Heep-like high-pitched choruses and synth/guitar solos in the middle very much. Egawa's keyboards are pushed up-front and this is good change in comparison to preceding release. Bass lines are very loud and give additional, hard rock dimension to the music.

2. "Lunatic" - another memorable song, this time more in the pop-rock vain but with good guitar riffs. Egawa mainly uses very enjoyable electric piano here but during solos section he switches to flute-like and later fanfare-style synths. Near the end also some good but not too audible Hammond runs.

3. "Dream The Paint" - after 2 energetic rockers Novela presents very beautiful symphonic ballad. Vocalist sounds very passionate here and floating synths create mellow, romantic atmosphere. However the best part is magnificent acoustic guitar solo which isn't typical element in this group's output. Perfect track!

4. "Through The Forest" - what a mind blowing intro! Very frantic rhythm and extremely busy organ/synth work. You can clearly here future Gerard's (next Egawa's band) brilliancy here. Whole song is fantastic. Very hard rockish but also melodic vocal delivery, powerful bass, supportive guitar solo and mellotron-made choruses. My favorite part is of course gritty Hammond solo placed before heavy metal guitar one. Surely my favorite track on "Sanctuary".

5. "To The Wing" - this song starts like ballad based on delicate acoustic piano and harpsichord melody. Hisakatsu's vocals sound incredibly soft here! However around 2nd minute tempo suddenly changes and Egawa starts ultra-fast Hammond organ-ride which is soon joined by ripping guitar solo. After sudden mellotron (?) symphonic eruptions music "comes back" to mellow mood. In general very enjoyable track.

6. "Unconcious Prophecy" - the shortest song of the album (only 3 minutes long) surprisingly appears to be one the highlights! It's a very good fast hard rocker with many memorable moments. I like the sinister, frightening sound of main riff here. Guitarist and bassist really shine in "Unconscious Prophecy".

7. "Rose Seravy" - it's a funny story connected with this song. Before I've read its title I thought that vocalist sings..."Oh! C'est la vie!", hehe. I don't whether his English accent is so bad or I become deaf ;-). Anyway this is another enjoyable song but this time more in the pop-rock vain (catchy refrain, basic melody etc.). Good organ/synth work (but mainly in the background) and loud guitar power chords.

8. "The Dawn Of..." - ...what? Probably I'll never know what kind of "dawn" is it 'cos I don't understand Japanese at all, but it doesn't change a thing that's a damn good song. It's surely the longest (7+ minutes) & most symphonic track on the album. Egawa mostly uses caustic piano and fanfare-like synthesizers here. Especially middle section with classical sounding wall of sound created by Egawa "The Magician" is thrillingly good. Catharsis inducting electric guitar solo which follows this section is also brilliant.

+ Bonus included on CD reissues:

9. "Secret Love" - it's clear why this song wasn't originally included on "Sanctuary". It's just weaker then other songs there. It's rather fast tempo pop-rocker with some nice - but not enough audible - organ runs in the background. Unfortunately some funky/disco rhythms (especially during guitar solo) usually spoil all the fun. Igarashi also sounds more annoying and goofy then usual here (all of these high-pitched screams).

10. "Ready To Fantasy" - much better bonus track which would easily fit on the main album. The main enjoyment factor of this song is extremely pretentious, quasi-operatic vocals of Hisakatsu Igarashi! I know that lots of people will find them extremely cheesy and lame but I still like it! Some good organ and synths runs throughout the song, too. Say what you want but for me it's catchy composition.

To sum up: it's a very good heavy prog album with many symphonic elements which should please all Novela's fans. Egawa & Hirayama's instruments are equally audible and bear equally important roles on "Sanctuary". Often used Hammond organ gives highly welcome retro feeling, which is kind of a trademark of all Egawa's bands. As I said this album can't be even compared with magnificent "La Songerie", but it's not much worse then "In The Night" record. If you're new to this band, you should obviously start from these 3 albums. ("Paradise Lost" and - especially - "Harmagedon Story - Volume 1" should be left mainly for Novela fans; "Harmagedon Story - Volume 2" can be interested only for hardcore Egawa's fans who have to check everything he ever recorded 'cos it's mainly complete crap and Egawa probably still wonder why the hell did he agreed to play there. And two albums recorded without Egawa and Igarashi: "Brain Of Balance" and "The Words"...should be burned so nobody will ever have to listen to this horrible disgusting synth-pop and think that it's "proper" Novela band). In general, if you check Novela's discography chronologically, this can be your last album of this band, and you won't miss too much if you stop here. "Sanctuary" is the last true highlight where Uriah Heep/Deep Purple/Rainbow influences mix together with Genesis and Yes elements in perfect proportions.

If you like harder edged Japanese prog rock I can also recommend you band called "Vienna" (featuring Gerard's guitarist).

For me it's clearly 4 stars album.

ozzy_tom | 4/5 |


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