In my first year here, back in 2016,1 I reviewed an album called Forsaken by progressive power outfit Noveria, who are pretty much DGM’s darker half. Mixing Symphony X-core with Evergrey sentimentality, it tried its hand at a difficult and personal subject and drove a wagon with wheels of cheese all over it. Coupled with an overly dense production, Forsaken left a bad taste in my mouth, and my review was decidedly mixed, noting the issues above, while lamenting how good everything else was. Noveria is absolutely a talented band; they just made a series of misjudgments that I could not overlook and feverishly hoped they would not repeat. So it wasn’t without some hesitation I took up Aequilibrium. And let me tell you: there are few greater joys than the feeling that a band has taken your constructive criticism to heart.
Everything I marked down Forsaken for, Noveria have fixed on Aequilibrium. Their darker subjects don’t get buried under a mountain of cheese; rather, and much like the aforementioned Evergrey, there is a sense of heft and emotion to the dramatic approach. The core sound is intact: a modern approach to progressive power, heavily influenced by Symphony X and big brother DGM and embellished with plenty of synths and keys. The band seems determined to put power back into power metal, from the pummeling drums that would not be out of place on a death metal album to the aggressive riffs. But the bombast now has a sincerity that was missing on Forsaken, and no one is more responsible for that than the excellent Francesco Corigliano. The man has an absolute ton of power in his throat and his technique is flawless, with a subtle edge to his delivery that hammers down the emotional content of the album, which is based around the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Italy. Where the battering instrumentation works to sell the aggressive side of the record, Francesco manages to anchor the bluster of the grandstanding choruses.
I nearly had an aneurysm when I read the promo sheet and saw “additional electronic and dubstep beats” in the line-up and production notes. Thankfully, that would have been a waste of a perfectly good aneurysm. Though the electronic elements are omnipresent across the album, their use is largely subtle garnish, aside from some short intros and the occasional keyboard solo. This fits the sound just fine, and the additional layering makes for a suitably bombastic experience. And speaking of production: here Noveria have made strides as well. The sound is less dense and crushed, giving the songs some room to breathe, a necessity due to how many things are going on. Francesco is mixed prominently, but deservedly so, and the drums pack a major punch.
Considering the scope of the album, running long is certainly expected, and clocking in at a full hour like its predecessor, you’d think Aequilibrium doesn’t escape the curse of bloat. Yet there’s little I’d consider excising from the tracks or from the tracklist as a whole, “Blind” being the only real candidate due to the awkward construction of its chorus. However, although the individual songs are by and large very strong, the album could do with a more dynamic approach. Many of the tracks are quite similar, particularly in the verses, and cutting the siblings of some of the twinsies would make for a more varied album that hits harder. However, due to the strength of the individual tracks, I would not want to be the one to make the decision what to cut, because there is something to enjoy about all of them, even the cheesy power ballad “Darkest Days” that functions as the closer.
There was another factor that endeared the band to me. The version of the promo we received at AMG had strange artifacts. The same day I contacted the band through Facebook to let them know about the error, I received an archive of uncompressed files that seemed to be ready for the CD press. What a bunch of cool guys to be that accommodating to their critics. Though such a move certainly increased my goodwill to the band, my review would have been the same regardless: Noveria has truly made major progress since their sophomore slump. Aequilibrium is still an indulgent platter of dramatic prog power, but with an approach altogether more earnest, better written, more balanced, with better production and knockout performances. If they keep this upward trajectory going with even more varied and dynamic songwriting, Noveria may become one of the best purveyors of modern power prog.