Novarupta‘s second album, Marine Snow, showcases a band who have hit their stride, with incredible composition at the foundation of five massive tracks. However, one might say it lacks staying power, with many of the tracks playing it safe.
I was really impressed by Novarupta‘s 2019 debut Disillusioned Fire, the first of a tetralogy focused on the four elements, so leapt at the chance to consume and review their second. Marine Snow debuts tomorrow, and it is a record any fan of the post-metal genre should certainly peruse. Drawing from a wide range of influences, yet with individuality imprinted throughout the record, it is a forlorn and oppressive piece of work, combining guest vocalists with thick instrumentation.
Novarupta is a project by Alex Stjernfeldt, who wanted to channel his energy into a new outlet after years with The Moth Gatherer. Deeper and darker were the fundamentals, and that is something blatantly obvious as you move through these five tracks. This comes from lyrical content, the growling basslines, and the epic yet claustrophobic mix of the album.
Marine Snow focuses on the element of water, with five tracks of undulating post-metal and sludge to carry you on this journey. The opening track and first single, “Broken Blue Cascades”, is a haunting yet stunning track that starts off calm, before escalating into a storm in seconds. The excellent effect-laden vocals from Josh Graham (A Storm of Light/ex-Red Sparrows) paint a bleak picture, whilst the huge instrumentation tosses your emotions around like a small sailboat in a storm.
Upon hearing the first track, I instantly messaged my editor with gladness that they’d managed to escalate their quality of sound so well. The mix sounds incredible throughout the track, creating an atmosphere I haven’t really heard since Postvorta‘s album earlier this year, but with more accessible lyrics. The sludgy bass tones and dystopian guitars surrounding the mix all really come together to make the listener feel small and in awe of this titanic wall of sound.
Then I got through the next two tracks and found myself concerned. Both are incredibly safe, opting, instead of unique moments, to barrage you with very similar riffs and extremely laid-back vocals (for post-metal). If I try, my attention can be held for most of the second track “Every Shade of Water” yet I find it waning considerably in “Trieste”, the second single from the band. The final track also suffers from this, with repetitive riffs and a constantly thick atmosphere allowing your mind to drift to things other than the music. The black metal-influenced finale does well to recoup interest at the end of the long track, but I can’t imagine myself getting that far through the record after finishing this review.
“No Constellation”, the track featuring Inter Arma singer Mike Paparo, thankfully does really stand out. The harsh vocals certainly added a needed flair to the tracks, which the constrained ranges of the other vocalists really lacked. This track is by far and away my favourite, with great switches in the accompanying music amplifying the brutal roars of Paparo.
After five or six spins of the record, it struck me what my ultimate critique of the album is. And you know what? It is going to sound unfair, but this is the ‘dad rock’ of post-metal. This is the exact kind of album I’d show my old man to get him into post-metal – it is accessible with epic lyrics, showcases the key qualities of the genre, and sounds fantastic (the mix is really good!). But it is just so incredibly safe, so happy to meter out the same riff over and over, and I just can’t find any drive to listen to it again. Novarupta do what they do bloody well, but this is the All Them Witches of post-metal, and whilst that isn’t a bad thing, it isn’t for me.