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Novalis - Sommerabend CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.77 | 189 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I've never directly read any of the work of the poet Novalis, but one of my favorite classic fantasy authors is C. S. Lewis contemporary George MacDonald, who quoted Novalis often at the beginning of chapters in his melancholy books. The band NOVALIS seems to share in the weighty solemnity and tragic beauty characteristic of German Romanticism, and "Sommerabend" is a worthwhile listen for almost anyone who likes thier music big, somber, and full of classic 70s prog textures.

Like countrymen ELOY and NEKTAR (and foreigners like PINK FLOYD, during the 70s), the music has stripped and stark instrumentation that nevertheless creates an evocative and occasionally eerie mood. Guitars are generally favored over keyboards, though the occasional synth lead or organ chording appears with exquisite restraint and appropriateness. The dry production allows every instrument plenty of room in the mix, even the occasional sound effect or synth burble. Some of the melodic structures in the heavy guitar-driven instrumental "Aufbruch" almost remind me of early RUSH, with much less emphasis on virtuosity (and of course the addition of keyboards to broaden the sonic depth). The introduction of vocals on "Wunderschatze" add yet another layer of somber expressiveness, infrequently tending towards melodrama (but still fairly low- key for the prog genre). This track comes to a crashing, inevitable crescendo under a warm analog synth lead and ever-intensifying percussion, never feeling forced but possibly just a shade on the repetitive side. Finally, the side-long title track takes all these elements and develops them with deliberate and tasteful restraint; it doesn't quite have the uniqueness of a track like PINK FLOYD's "Echoes", but it sacrifices the wilder experimentalism for a more tangible prog rock weight. The choral parts can be distracting (the "Jesus Christ Superstar" stage show syndrome relatively common in 70s prog) but they're undeniably dramatic and well done in any case. If these songs were just a little more creatively inspired, "Sommerabend" would be an essential classic.

Though fans of faster or more complex rhythmic and melodic structures may find them somewhat plodding at times, the repetition and slow build in the songs are really quite dramatic, even hypnotic. Much like ELOY or many of the Italian bands of the 70s, I find NOVALIS comfortingly warm and classic-sounding to my ears, and would have no difficulty recommending them to any hardcore classic prog fan. Their appeal for those with more experimental, modern or Neo-prog tastes is more limited, but the depth and Romantic Teutonic heavyness makes them worth a listen for just about any symphonic prog fan.

James Lee | 3/5 |


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