Novalis – Paradise…?

Three years after the first album “Last years calling” Novalis is back with a new cd. The misty trees and buildings on the cover already betray the melancholic sound of this German band. Musicwise the album builds on the previous work, with a mixture of neo-folk and romantic darkwave, with as main ingredients the strumming acoustic guitar, clear and melodic keyboard melodies and the grave, somewhat dramatic voice of Stev Schumann. This time the sound of the band is richer through the participation of various guest musicians on violin, trumpet and background vocals.

After the promising first releases, I expected that Novalis would have evolved quite a bit further on “Paradise…?”. But the first couple of songs don’t totally convince me. The songs are perhaps a little too simple and not daring enough. They don’t make a lasting impression or just don’t appeal to my taste enough. The vocals of Schumann are not my favourite aspect of the band. His voice conveys quite some emotion, but sometimes it sounds a little forced, and it’s a bit distracting to hear clearly that English is not his native language. I have the impression though that his vocal skills are improving, especially live.

Halfway through the album something unexpected seems to happen. Track 6 starts with a demanding voice stating “A storm is coming. Our storm!”. And suddenly the songs seem to have found an extra dimension, with more passion, variation and stronger compositions. ‘Humans Front’ combines a very attractive classical melody with a moving romantic song. ‘In her arms’ is a fine melancholic folky song with nice violin sounds, confident vocals and a full sound. I can remember the song ‘Suddenly’ as one of the highlights at Novalis’ concert at the Summer Darkness festival in Utrecht last summer, with a good dynamic variation between intimate and passionate parts.

A few more convincing tracks follow, which get me in the mood now. For some reason Novalis sounds more like a real band here, instead of a campfire folk act, take for instance the second half of ‘September Day’, with its powerful drums, or ‘Wild Horses’, with its outspoken trumpets . There are also clearer (dark)wave influences, for example a song like ‘Jonas’ makes me think of In my Rosary. Though you can say that this album has two faces for me, the positive feeling that the second half of “Paradise…?” leaves behind prevails.

As a bonus the cd contains a MPEG-video with a performance of ‘Of the Golden Future Time’, recorded at the aforementioned festival in my hometown. A very good live version, and nice to see some (very!) familiar faces in the dancing audience…

artist: Novalis
label: Ars Musica Diffundere
details: 12 tracks, 2005 [AMD 009]