The mainstream view of metal is that it’s either scary or ridiculous. Which, I suppose, makes us all a bunch of clowns, both in how society views us and in our low-key terrorization of the collective subconscious. But you have to admit that a lot of metal really is a bit idiotic, with grown men playing Viking metal, stringing together the foulest descriptions of gore, or, in the case of power metal, screaming about flaming dragons in the skies. Italians are the worst offenders in that last department (looking at you, Turilii), so it’s a nice surprise to see a team of pizza cats tackling a serious subject: the process of dealing with terminal illness.
Noveria can be seen as the darker little brother of DGM, another Italian power prog band, and their sound is quite similar: melodic power metal with heavy keyboard incorporation, a pummeling rhythm section and occasionally unconventional song structures. The sound calls Symphony X to mind, as well as Evergrey who also love their dark emotional themes without turning to harsher soundscapes. Dealing with a complex and sensitive subject while employing such high-speed bombast is a tightrope act few can pull off, but Noveria have an ace up their sleeve with Francesco Corigliano’s voice: the man is extremely expressive, and songs like opener “Shock” would not be as strong without him. This track shows off how to marry the apparent clash between hyperspeed riffing and personal drama: with a soaring chorus full of shocked despair and by pumping adrenaline like gasoline. “When Everything Falls” is the first power ballad of the album and a duet to boot, but it gets me in spite of the mozzarella, and I woke up with the chorus ringing in my head a few mornings over the past week.
Unfortunately, the band can’t resist their own bombast and though “Shock” staves off the Parmesan for a while, it starts ramping up quickly afterward. The vocalist may be skilled, but he does his very best to disguise it behind several layers of overacting, helped by numerous cringeworthy lyrics like “I wish for one last dance with you” or “Mother don’t you cry for me, our last goodbye is this maybe.” The latter is part of the teeth-shattering power ballad “Acceptance,” which is stuffed with dramatic clichés and pushes the already towering levels of Grana Padano to the brink of gravitational collapse.
Just the fact that it’s enough Ricotta to kickstart nuclear fusion isn’t what bugs me the most about the album, though. I can enjoy cheesiness without a problem, otherwise, I would not enjoy power metal to begin with. The issue is the head-on collision between the theatrical drama and the small, intimate and heart-wrenching subject. It makes a deeply personal matter feel distant and completely secondary, even though all the spotlights are cast on it. Contrasting this with the latest Reticent album for instance, which also deals with loss and grief, is like night and day. It might be a cultural thing, as I gather (excuse the generalization) Italians are dramatic and theatrical people, but in interviews, the band did not appear to be writing from a personal perspective and it shows, to the detriment of the emotional investment.
Leaving the feels behind, the songwriting isn’t enough to save the album. Aside from the exceptions listed above, many songs don’t have the hooks to be memorable in the long-term. Most of the choruses are catchy enough, but the verses lack depth and engagement. It’s not bad, far from it; the spirit and enthusiasm are there in spades and the rhythm section gets the blood pumping easily, but there’s too little that truly grabs, a long shot from the band’s lofty aspirations. The keyboards, prominent as they are, rarely add much depth or texture and often just replace the guitars. Additionally, the tendency to kick tracks off with nu-metal chugs and electronics gets old and annoying fast. The ultra-modern, flat and smashed production doesn’t help either. There’s a tendency for the drums and rhythm guitar to crowd out the other instruments and the vocals, making it an effort to listen to this for the lengthy duration of a full hour.
The musicians in Noveria are very capable at their craft and some of the tracks show plenty of promise, but overall, Forsaken is hampered by lackluster songwriting, a shoddy production and a gaping chasm between concept and execution. They can’t seem to do justice to the central premise, despite all the ingredients present. Dragons might have been a better fit in this case.