Parisian metalcore collective Novelists FR came into the scene with a strong start thanks to their highly acclaimed debut, Souvenirs, in 2015, followed by Noir two years later. Now they’re back with their new release C’est La Vie, but does it follow suit or live up to its inexplicable name?
The instrumentation as a whole is outrageous from the get go, with opening tracks ‘Somebody Else and ‘Deep Blue’ featuring djent-style riffs, prominent blast beats and rumbling bass grooves. However, the blues guitar solos which frequently appear occasionally come across as unsolicited and ill-fitting, especially at the very end of closing track ‘Human Condition’. Yet, in most cases they’re charming and intricate enough to allow for listeners to alternatively focus on guitarist Florestan Durand’s skill instead. While the guitar solos in general, blues or not, are a strong component, the repetitive structure of the tracks does dampen the anticipation of them as they are seemingly shoehorned into the same section of most songs.
It's important to point out though: the majority of tracks here ensure that each instrument can be heard and earn their merit within the verses, however, it’s the choruses and clean vocals which let the record down. While high-velocity and energetic moods are often set in the verses, Matteo Gelsomino’s flat vocals and the poor attempt at uplifting melodic choruses diminish this in seconds. ‘Human Condition’ is a prime example as the alt-rock, Liam Cromby (ex-We Are The Ocean)-like vocal style fails to pack a punch. The same can be said for the attempts at airy production which doesn’t quite reach the euphoric heights intended, as heard particularly towards the end of ‘Rain’, which ultimately leads into nothing.
Standing as somewhat of an anomaly on C'est La Vie is the title track. It takes on a completely different mood compared to what surrounds it as the tone is set by a smooth bluesy guitar melody which is used throughout, rather than one solo sticking out like a sore thumb laced around prog riffs. It sets out to be short but sweet, featuring Gelsomino’s clean vocals along with an unnamed female for two alternating verses, coming together for one chorus. Perhaps a tribute to ‘If It Means A Lot To You’ by A Day To Remember, the pair work well together, with the female vocals lifting Gelsomino’s in one of the strongest choruses heard on the record, with the production job finally living up to expectations. The only downside here is its length: too long to be an interlude, too short to achieve its full potential.
While C’est La Vie has many strengths lying within its instrumentation and Gelsomino’s sceamed vocals, the dim choruses are a major let down. The repetition of such anti-climaxes really prevents many songs on the album from becoming storming metal hits, and ultimately ties Novelists FR down.