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erik neuteboom
3 stars This Japanese progrock band was very popular in their own country, between 1980 and 1987 they made many albums. The line-up on their first albums included Terutsugu Hirayama (later he founded Teru's Symphonia) and keyboard virtuoso Toshio Egawa (later Gerard and Sheherazade). On their first four albums Novela sounded as a blend of hardrock and symphonic rock, later they turned more from 'heavy progressive' into a harder-edged rock band.

This debut album can be divided in short songs that are up- tempo with fiery and heavy guitarplay and a bit screamy vocals and long compositions with lush keyboards. My highlight on "La songerie" is the titletrack (running time 13.52). It starts very compelling with a bombastic climate featuring wonderful, very moving Mellotron waves and slow but powerful drum beats, goose bumps! Then the moods shifts from mellow (coloured by acoustic guitar, piano and harpsichord) to swinging (nice duet from piano and violin-Mellotron) and splendid bombastic eruptions with violin-Mellotron. After a short Spanish guitar solo the composition ends with a great 'grand finale' delivering wonderful Mellotron and a sensitive electric guitar solo, the final minute contain moving waves from the choir-Mellotron, again goose bumps!

This album is perhaps Novela their most progressive effort. In general they tend to sound a bit simple, the distinctive Japanese vocals (a bit high pitched, sometimes close to screamy) will not be everybody's cup of tea but the often breathtaking titletrack is almost worth buying this CD! And Toshio Egawa has a strong contribution by colouring the composition very tasteful with his keyboards. In Gerard he would deliver his best work!

Report this review (#46870)
Posted Friday, September 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One of the first bands in Japan to add symphonic elements in their hard-rockin' sound,NOVELA were led by the charismatic figures of Toshio Egawa on keyboards and Terutsugu Hirayama on guitars,both coming from a 70's band with a similar sound,''Scheherezade''.Their first LP ''La songerie'' (japanese title is ''Miwakugeki'') was released in 1980 on King Records.

The album is really growing in you during the listening,as the first three tracks have rather a cliche Hard Rock sound with angular riffs, frenetic rhythms and high-pitched vocals,though all of the three are good compositionaly.Things seem to change with ''Letticia'',which is a track where Egawa shines,having more space to deliver his synth/organ (and a light dose of piano and mellotron) work,while the instrumental parts are pure Symphonic Prog.''The boyhood'' has a great synth introduction and it gets even more grandiose when the guitars enter at the middle in a FLOYD-ian style.The second part of the track is Hard Rock-oriented with powerful drumming and furious grooves.The closing eponymous track is a mellotron-heaven ,sounding very far from the previous also features a jazzy middle part with nice flutes,followed by the acoustic guitars' beauty and some dreamy keyboard work.Excellent!While ''La songerie'' is an uneven work in term of music style,it can be denied that it contains some great parts,which later established the bombastic japanese Symphonic Prog sound.A nice addition, especially for Symphonic Prog lovers,who don't mind a harder edge in their music.

Report this review (#252036)
Posted Saturday, November 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars "La Songerie" (also known as "Miwakugeki") is the first album of very prominent Japanese prog rock band Novela and it's also definitely their best one. Compared with its successors this record presents the most symphonic side of the group so classical music influences are very audible here. We can't also forget that's the very first album featuring phenomenal keyboardist Toshio Egawa, which later became first class star in Gerard formation. It's really a miracle that so young musician could already made so big impact on this material. In fact it's the most "Egawa-driven" release from the whole Novel's discography! Maybe he doesn't presents so many flashy organ runs (from which he became famous in the future) here, but his mellotron, piano and especially synthesizers (digital & analog) skills are extremely evident all over the place. Guitar presence of Hirayama & Yamane is also very good.

Let's describe album's songs:

1. "Illusion" - 1st Novela's album id divided into 2 parts. At first we can listen to 3 heavy-prog/hard rock tracks and after that 3 truly symphonic prog suites. First harder edged song in the set-list is "Illusion". Unfortunately it wasn't a good choice to place this one in the beginning of the record. It's a decent hard rock tune clearly influenced by such UK bands as Uriah Heep. Rainbow or Deep Purple but somehow more pop-sounding. It's rather guitar-driven song but Egawa plays some nice synths and organ rides in the background. Not bad at all, but later will be much better. P.S. Good, metallic guitar solo included.

2. "Night With No Name" - fantastic heavy prog track with more sinister, aggressive atmosphere than "Illusion". Fantastic thundering double guitar & bass attack! Keyboards mostly not audible here but in the middle Egawa wakes up and plays great interlude solos together with guitarists. Truly rockin' synthesizer sound! Igarashi's vocal delivery is excellent too!

3. "Unbelieving Words" - the shortest track on "La Songerie" is much better than its length would suggest. Really nice hard rocker based on Hammond/guitar leads and Igarashi's vocals (including some typical for him high-pitched shrieks :-). Very enjoyable.

4. "Letticia" - for ultimate progheads this is a point where this album really begins - first epic of the album. Really splendid piece of symphonic prog dominated by Egawa's various synthesizers & piano work. You can listen also lots of inspired guitar solos and - what's very important - few mellotron moments! We can't also forget about Igarashi, who sings in a very melodic way with true passion and sense of melody. It can be easily compared with Genesis and Yes recordings.

5. "The Boyhood - The Cliff" - it's the shortest epic track, but it's still more than 9 minutes long so you can expect full blown prog rock. At first mood of this suite is very laid-back and atmospheric with Gilmour influenced guitar weeps and Bardens-like synthesizers. However in the middle tempo suddenly changes into organ & guitar driven, fast-tempo rocker full of "AAAAAA" harmonized vocals in the vain of Uriah Heep in their golden years. Kudos to Egawa for his blistering, 70's sounding Hammond organ solo! As you see you can hear many different influences here, but they are far away from ripping-off. I can assure you about it.

6. "La songerie" - it's definitely my favorite composition of Novela. It's rather slow tempo epic with extremely beautiful mellotron eruptions and acoustic guitar passages. We can clearly see Egawa's melancholic side during his classical sounding Grand piano play which almost dominate the suite. and the most important: melodies are gorgeous and Igarashi's delicate voice fits perfect here! I especially love this long instrumental fragment which started with acoustic guitar passages over charming glockenspiel sounds, followed by brief Baroque-like harpsichord (clavinet?) solo, then jazzy piano section and with flute-like mellotron sounds and finally nostalgic acoustic guitar solo spot (a la Steve Howe). Sheer beauty! Last 4 minutes are also brilliant. All of these "AAAA" harmony vocals, "fanfare" keyboards, catharsis-inducting guitar solos and overall dramatic tension atmosphere which culminates in eruption of mellotron created (thrilling sounding!) choruses. Goose bumps!

+ Bonus:

7. "Shoot a burning arrow" - bonus track included on most of CD issues of "La Songerie" isn't as good as the main album. It's just decent hard rock track with constant guitar bashing and cocky screams plus Wakemanish Moog solo. Similar to first 3 songs of "La Songerie" but weaker. But as a bonus it won't count to my overall rating.

In general I have to admit that "La Songerie" is a damn fantastic piece of art which every progressive rock lover should know. Its diversity is very obvious: 3 heavy prog songs (with sometimes slight pop influences) and 3 long symphonic rock suites which create perfect album altogether. This album should be equally regarded as Japanese prog masterpiece together with such records as Cosmos Factory "An Old Castle of Transylvania", Food Brain "Bansan (aka Social Gathering)", Shingetsu "Shingetsu" or Hiro Yanagida "Milt Time".

If you want to check only one Novela's album, let it be this one, but in fact whole discography of this band which featuring Toshio Egawa (1980-1984 period) is worth your time (and don't forget about Scheherazade's self-titled album with the same vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist, so it can be almost treated as another Novela's record)

Music on "La Songerie" reminds me such classic 70's bands as Genesis (mainly), Camel, Yes, Uriah Heep, Rainbow and even Queen.

If you like Japanese symphonic prog in the vain of Novela you can also check bands which were clearly influenced by them: Teru's Symphonia, Gerard, Vienna, Mugen, Magdalena, Pale Acute Moon, Providence, Pageant and Outer Limits.

My rating for Novela's debut: 5 stars (maybe more like 4,7 than full blown 5, but...)

Report this review (#307758)
Posted Monday, November 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I will admit that this album took me a bit by surprise. I suppose that since really the only Japanese prog music I had listened to before this was zeuhl bands like Koenjihyakkei and Ruins, I was expecting something a bit weirder. I was surprised in a good way, though, as this is a very solid symphonic/hard rock release, especially considering it came out in 1980.

"Illusion," the album's opener, begins with a fairly slow choral section that quickly transitions into a fairly standard hard rock number. The high pitched vocals soon kick in, and barring a brief section in the middle with some synth there's nothing out of the ordinary for a 1980 hard rock song. "Night WIth No Name" is much in the same style, highly reminiscent of a slew of late 70s/early 80s rock bands without ripping any of them off. "Unbelievable Words," has a slightly different sound to it, and, despite being the shortest song is probably the proggiest of these first three, with a totally different sounding bridge that somehow manages to not feel out of place. The vocals are a bit grating at times, though, especially the really high notes.

As soon as song 4, "Letticia" begins, the album really shifts into full on prog mode. We get a bombastic instrumental intro before the song falls away to just piano and voice. The song naturally builds up again from there, and there's some nice Genesis-esque organ along the way, though it's used sparingly. Really a great song. "The Boyhood-The Cliff" is another great prog track, with an instrumental intro that lasts longer than the entirety of "Unbelievable Words." It starts off with a fairly peaceful, pastoral sounding bass and synth intro, but at about five minutes in transitions to another uptempo, harder edged song. "La Songerie" starts out sounding quite a bit like "The Court of the Crimson King," but rest assured this is no rip-off. This intro transitions into an absolutely beautiful vocal section, which slows down before hitting us with the opening melody again. The song goes through more twists and turns from there, including what sounds like a harpsichord solo at one point. Other reviewers have said that this is the best song on the album and I think I have to agree.

Overall, this is an album that definitely wears a lot of influences on its sleeve, but it's very good regardless. At times the vocals sound a bit strained, but there's certainly nothing cringeworthy here in that regard. A nice blend of hard rock and symphonic prog that makes for a very good listening experience.


Report this review (#482543)
Posted Thursday, July 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars The debut album for Japanese symphonic progressive band `Le Songerie' is a fascinating mix of punchy, heavy-rocking numbers with grandiose symphonic prog. Novela crosses the 70's hard rock of the Paul Dianno-led Iron Maiden albums, the deeply spacey synthesizers of the so-called `metal' period of late 70's/early 80's Eloy with the regal Mellotrons of Genesis, and even a touch of sweeping Renaissance-like grandness and lush sophistication - the talented musicians clearly soaked up a wide collection of 70's heavy metal and proper progressive music influences. On first listen, the album seems dominated with stomping rockers, and vocalist Hisakatsu Igarashi oftens employs a wailing high-pitched shriek, but the more adventurous and daring material emerges closer to the second half that makes everything so much more special.

Opener `Illusion' is a bashing uptempo and catchy heavy stomper that, despite the glossy keyboards over the top, wouldn't have sounded out of place on Iron Maiden's `Killers', with only a fleeting synth passage near the end to offer a glimpse of prog. More grooving 70's flavoured metal for `Night With No Name' with some gorgeous chugging bass, while despite `Unbelieving Words' being a bit closer to actual prog, it's really a perky poppy number. The 11-minute `Letticia' is where things start to get really interesting. Full of lengthy instrumental sections over a variety of tempo changes, the endless washes of synths, ethereal female voices and some dazzling Frank Bornermann-styled electric guitar soloing recall the `lost-in-space' atmospherics of 80's Eloy. The commanding, driving drumming and pulsing bass also brings to mind Rush, Hisakatsu's vocals taking on an unearthly and unhinged menace here.

Opening with a graceful and dignified Mellotron introduction that recalls German proggers Epidaurus mixed with Novalis, the powerful and dramatic two-parter `The Boyhood/The Cliff' sounds a little like the slow-build of Iron Maiden's `Strange World', but full of serene and blissful floating synths. The grooving second half is a frantic and uptempo rocker with some very snappy drumming and nimble bass playing. The 14 minute title track is also full of the soaring Mellotron majesty of Novalis' classic `Sommerabend'. With a lovely matching vocal and piano melody in the verses that drifts very close to Renaissance's `Ocean Gypsy', crying electric guitar that calls from the distance, even Hisakatsu restrains his voice for a very touching and heartfelt performance full of wistful longing. Lovely classical acoustic passages, crystalline electric piano, scratchy Mellotron and group choir harmonies showcase the band playing with great subtlety not displayed on much of the rest of the album.

`La Songerie' won't win you over right away, but patient listeners will be rewarded with a strong release if they take the time to discover all those wonderful symphonic pieces a few tracks in. The band shows supreme taste and an unpredictable energy, and I plan on looking into more albums from the band in the near future. As I own the most recent Mini LP reissue, I also envy owners of the original vinyl, what sublime cover artwork to treasure!

Three and a half stars.

Report this review (#1131016)
Posted Thursday, February 13, 2014 | Review Permalink

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