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Novalis - Sommerabend CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.79 | 210 ratings

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Thai Divone
4 stars Novalis are a magnificent band. Some even call this band legendary. So when I first came to this album, the one regarded as their best, I came to it with high anticipations. I hoped for something unique, revolutionizing. As it turns out, they're not revolutionary, but rather very much symphonic, especially Romantic-period style symphonic.

But it doesn't mean that I was disappointed, as this album is another one of my favorites. It combines much emotion with much elegance, and just like the poetry of Novalis himself, or the poetry of Coleridge and Byron, beauty and virtuosi join forces to create something that is so old and primitive, yet so fresh and new.

The album opens with the magnificent Aufbruch. Some watery sound effects lead to an amazing keyboards riff, with added sparkles of an amazing yet simple electric guitar. Drums and bass join around the 35 seconds mark. Hammond joins not much later, and it all centers around the keyboards' riff, that still grows and changes, even though it does that a little bit slowly.1:48 and we're presented with our guitar motive, an amazing, elegant and beautiful line, and then the piece's pace grows, all to lead to a certain spacey feel. Neo-Prog and Kraut-Rock join forces with some Beethoven? Perhaps. The motive comes back, leading this time to a different segment, at around 4:00. Slow, with much use of drums and around 4:26 it changes yet again, going the keyboards-rock route. Quick and precise, virtuosic and suspenseful. Then it changes again, around 5:15. Then layers are taken off, leaving us with only bass, Hammond and drums, only to inject them again. Then we're presented with the keyboards riff from the beginning, this time on a different instrument and with a much rock-ish feel. 6:53 and the motive is presented again, feeling much fuller and much more worthwhile and hard-won.7:32 leads to a beautiful guitar solo, simple yet beautiful. Two guitars harmonize each other, solo on each other's backs. Then a rock-ish bridge to bring us near the ending segment, or should I say to another keyboards riff? And then the closing segment, which is a little bit just like the way we begun, with the same "keyboards-with-some-electric-guitar-sparkles", and then another SFX as an ending. What a great way to open the album.

Wunderschätze opens much more quickly, and around the 34 seconds mark stops a little to let the fingerstyle guitar-riff take its place. Vocals join around 1:10. I wished that I knew some German, to understand them, but they do sound beautiful, and so full of sorrow. It does feel, though, like a verse-chorus-verse-chorus kind of song during those early minutes. Before the harmonies of 3:12, but the pace is built during those moments, all to lead to a certain come-back to the early riff-like beginning. The bass here is no less than amazing. 4:08 is where the song starts to really shine with some amazing instrumentals building on each other. Keyboards solo, then electric guitar, then an almost drum-solo and back to the guitars. And around 5:24 we're back to the beginning riff-like motive. 5:48 and we're back to the fingerstyle guitar. This time it is different, and it is allowed to linger a little bit, before coming back to the vocals and to the earlier sound of it. 8:06 and we're back to the instrumentals, more suspenseful and a little bit less melodic. And it all feels like building to a certain crescendo, with layers added and pace rising slowly but surely. And when it comes? It doesn't disappoint.

Sommerabend is the side-long track, and it opens slowly, taking the time to build itself. It sounds spacy, known but unknown, English yet so-not-English. Drums and keyboards on them, doing no less than magic. The bass is slow and simple, yet adds so much. Then a keyboards motive enters around 2:10, giving us an ethereal feel. Nylon-string guitars enter around 3:10. 3:51 and a fingerstyle guitar riff is presented to us. 4:30 and some lone and long keyboard's notes are added, and sometimes it is just Hammond chords. It takes its time, giving us the atmosphere it deserves, building it for us. 6:19 and vocals join in. they feel like the words of a man who saw too much for his own good. 8:14 and we're back to instrumentals, changing the song completely but not too much, guitars giving us a beautiful harmony around 9:03, and then we're back to vocals around 9:20. It feels a bit conservative, during those moments, like they hold themselves in purpose. 10:00 and we get the vocalic melody, on Moog. 10:40 and we're back to vocals. 11:24 and we're back to keyboards' melody. And then it builds to? 12:06 is a mark than one just has to listen to for himself/herself. There's no way to describe the change of pace, the genius of this transition. It is just mind-blowingly brilliant. The change backwards, at 14:28 is no less amazing. 15:07 and the vocals come back again, a little bit happier, and the voices are harmonizing each other. 16:32 and we're back to the sound of the piece's beginning, even though it is a bit more spacy, more ethereal, more airy. This circular ending, though, feels so right for this piece, so part of its genius.

And so the album ends. Which brings me to its rating question, because as much as I like it, essential? I don't think so. So 4 stars: excellent (and even more than just excellent) addition to any Prog-Rock collection, but not essential.

Thai Divone | 4/5 |


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