Album Of The Year 2020 – Number 12

Welcome to instalment number nineteen of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. Heading swiftly to my top 10, so the excitement levels are rising…or is that just me?! Time is also becoming more and more tight as Christmas draws ever nearer, so there will be no big intro today – no time!

As always, forgive me as I want to give my normal reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 13, as well as my lists from previous years too.

Number 12

Novena

Eleventh Hour

Frontiers Records

Score Of Much Metal: 95%

My initial struggles with ‘Eleventh Hour’ were more pronounced than with any other album in this year’s list. I really didn’t care for it that much to begin with, to the point that I nearly shelved it. However, thanks to an epiphany, I suddenly saw the light, felt that moment of clarity, and have never looked back since.

The first thing to say is that the music sounds so much better on CD than via the promo stream that I initially relied upon. As such, despite my hectic life, I always ensure that I listen to this album on my stereo system, as opposed to digitally. The results are well worth it, with all of the instruments benefitting from a greater clarity and presence across the board. The heavier sections feel heavier, whilst the lighter, jazzier, more whimsical passages feel more vibrant.

As for the compositions themselves, I now have the benefit of several months’ worth of hindsight, which means that the music has truly got under my skin. In that respect, it’s a  proper ‘prog’ record in that it has to be worked at. But, put in the effort and by heavens, you’ll be rewarded. Every track is chock full of incredible musicianship with lots of flamboyance and technical ability on display. However, crucially, the melodies and the song writing combine to ensure that there are enough hooks to keep you returning for repeated listens. There’s also a freshness to the material, as well as demonstrable emotion, nowhere more pronounced or rawer than on the closing track. I said it in my review and I will say it again – whether or not you’re a fan of vocal monologues, it is impossible not to get swept up in the passion, sadness, and anger that pours out.

Overall, this is a great debut album that bodes well for the future of Novena. It’s a worthy entry in this year’s ‘best of’.  

What I  wrote at the time:

“I shouldn’t have been surprised that I struggled initially because ‘Eleventh Hour’ features Haken vocalist Ross Jennings and is touted to be an album for fans of Haken’s ‘Aquarius’ and ‘Visions’. And boy, did I struggle with ‘Aquarius’ initially too, only to take it to my heart after persevering for some time. ‘Eleventh Hour’ has proved to be almost identical. Not that the music is identical you understand. 

…these guys have an identity of their own and that’s testament to the musicians that have assembled under the Novena moniker. 

The good news with ‘Eleventh Hour’, is that there is indeed more focus, more cohesion and more of an identity. The clever thing is that this has been achieved without seemingly losing any of their creative verve; this album is still all over the place, encompassing everything from extreme metal riffs and growls, right through to the lightest and brightest of breezy passages. And yet, it feels like an album somehow, with strong threads running through it. 

If you’re not moved by the final track or by this album as a whole, then I’m afraid that maybe progressive music just isn’t for you and perhaps you should try searching elsewhere for your musical pleasure. For those of you that do like music that is challenging and with genuine depth, ‘Eleventh Hour’ must make it into your collection as quickly as possible. It isn’t negotiable!”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

If you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

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