Monday, September 19, 2011

N O V A - InverT Theory (2011)

Hailing from San Francisco, electronic metal two piece N O V A are ambitious. Looking to fuse the grinding guitars of metal with a more futuristic approach, Chazz McConnell and Max Seeman have united in their vision. The first of two albums, "Invert Theory" has been described by its creators as sounding like "stars exploding." And with this seven track offering, they seek to bring outer space into your speakers. Astronaut food, anyone?

The opening moments of the title track, "Invert Theory," may have you thinking you stumbled into another techno/metal mash-up. But as the distortion chugging takes the reigns, the electronic influences fade to the background, forming another layer of sound. The track has a clear evolution, building upon the expansive guitar sounds. A short piano melody kicks things into a different gear, with the chord delivery becoming more intricate. A fiery solo played on top of the thunder of double kicks is a view of what is to come. The industrial metal battery of "Ley-Lines" takes over for a drawn out seven minutes. The constant tempo changes and cross-fading of sounds may become off-putting, but the energy of the guitar work should more than make up for the overuse of production trickery. But a track so ambitious manages to sound repetitive and forced at times, with little variation until the forth minute. And a Weather Channel style section does little to salvage any momentum for the last bursts of guitar. The final minute, in fact, may remind you more of an alien abduction than a metal track.

A brief interlude track, "Cronomicon," treads dangerously into the waters of house metal. The drum and bass beats become the focus too easily, and do a disservice to the guitar work. The theme continues into the opening measures of "Rift," combining futuristic sounds with mechanical guitar effects into a space age metal hybrid. The major victory is in the body of the track, where guitars hit those deep, rich chords in a tangled chugging and picking whirlwind. There is nothing overly complicated or inventive to be had, but there is nothing wrong with solid fretwork. This is one of the more complete offerings on the album, despite its electronic tendencies. Another interlude, the two minute "Sephricon," could have come straight out of a Transformers movie, with synthesizers taking a strangle hold on the last remaining metal instrumentation.

What progress was lost there is sought to be regained on "Shard," which is finally the guitar heavy track the album has been building towards. They waste no time getting to the meat of the track, with flurries of double kick drums throbbing through your speakers as guitars intertwine in distorted glory. The wall of sound has finally been built, with solid layers of guitar, drums and keys crushing down on you. The length of the track is the only minor weakness, choosing to pad out nearly six minutes instead of a dominating four and a half or five. The closer, "Entra Nova," may piss away nearly a minute with ambient sounds, but immediately grabs your attention back with each downbeat. Some softer plucking takes the lead, before an aggressive buildup enters. The distant voice of astronauts can be heard over the music, igniting the soulful solo that the album needed. It is this combination of smooth and crunchy that is the overlying strength of the band. Even a space age outro can't stop them now.

In a seven track offering, every minute counts. And for N O V A, they let a few too many slip through their fingers. "Invert Theory" is an album full of metal potential, but leans on the electronica crutch a few too many times. The strongest moments on this record come when the guitars are fierce, and the beats are providing an assist. If they can dial back the futuristic love affair and find some sort of balance, N O V A will leap to the forefront of the new industrial metal movement.


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