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Show, Don’t Tell: A Novelist’s Progressive Madness Comes Full Circle on “Folie”


In death metal, being progressive and being “proggy” are two separate (but not necessarily unequal) concepts, and Louisiana-based duo A Novelist are back from their 2015 debut to demonstrate the difference with a full-length follow-up. While some death metal bands illuminate themselves stylistically and even aesthetically with progressive music, others take the philosophy straight to heart as something transformative versus merely inspirational. Musical and technical experimentation play key roles, of course, but so does pushing emotional and narratory boundaries with music-as-story. And this is precisely where A Novelist shines so brightly. Take the journey with an exclusive early stream of Folie (“madness” in French), the band’s wide-ranging sophomore effort, below.

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Project co-conspirators Ben Nugent (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards) and Alex Babineaux (drums) have matured significantly since A Novelist’s debut album Portraits: from its unbridled musicianship to its effortless synchrony, Folie feels emergent rather than constructed (more free-form dance than dress rehearsal). Across its 12 tracks, the album pirouettes from melodic bursts of speed and energy (further amplified by Nugent’s dazzling clean vocals) to moody, ambient moments of reflection — and even though transitions are aplenty and often abrupt, no musical idea feels underexplored or underutilized. The pair of tracks which centerpiece Folie — “His Kingdom is Vast” and “Strangers in the House of Auto-da-Fe” — span everything from hyper-techy noodling to symphonic, rhythmic blasting (giving Nugent and Babineaux an extremely balanced shared soundstage) but still feel entirely interwoven.

Folie‘s catchiest element isn’t its penchant for oftentimes melancholic melody but rather its super-silky narrative flow. This cohesion is especially impressive given the pithy length of the album’s songs (at least relative to genre peers who don’t often shy away from the ten-minute mark): together, they tell a complex, winding story with sharp peaks and moody valleys, well-varied instrumentation, and unabashed style. As far as progression goes, A Novelist applies it to every essence comprising their special brand of invigorating (and thus rewarding) death metal without allowing for the spoilage of byproducts like over-indulgence or sterile showmanship. Folie unfolds, turns, twists, and then concludes as swiftly and deftly as a champion writer’s favorite pen.

Folie releases Friday. Follow A Novelist on Bandcamp.

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