“Secondary Genesis” is the debut EP from Novena, a prog metal band from the UK which features Haken’s lead vocalist Ross Jennings. Since Ross has such a distinct and instantly recognizable vocal, it’s hard not to compare this EP with Haken. Since the style overall isn’t all that far from Haken, it’s downright impossible not to do that!
“Secondary Genesis” at times sounds like it could have been outtakes from either “Aquarius” or “Visions,” the first two Haken albums. I don’t mean to down play the other members of Novena, but I was not familiar with Bleeding Oath or No Sin Evades His Gaze. I knew that Mikael Åkerfeldt did a video telling Bleeding Oath to fuck off, at their request. While each of those bands are technical and certainly can play, I wouldn’t exactly classify either as prog metal. So this EP is definitely more in line with what Haken would do. Well, kinda.
The first track “Lost Within a Memory” is a great opener with some great riffs and an awesome vocal by Ross. It does get heavier when special guest vocalist Gareth Mason (Slice the Cake) does his thing. Mason has a death vocal that will wake you up. And while he is really good at it. It doesn’t make much sense in the context of this song. I like death vocals a lot and for example, on the new Haken album, Einar from Leprous does an awesome death vocal during the song “The Architect.” This one just doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the song.
Well, I suppose if that was it, I wouldn’t have issues with this EP. The problem really happens during “Breathe” which is an INSANELY good prog ballad, with an awesome vocal from Ross. Until, for whatever reason the band decided a deathcore break with Gareth growling and almost laughing made sense. I mean, it’s six minutes in and the song is SO GOOD. And then there’s this left turn that not only doesn’t make sense but is hamfisted at best. I fucking hate deathcore but I hate it more when it fucks up a song that was great.
The song gets back to being beautiful but of course it goes back to a bad mix of prog ballad and deathcore. What a waste. I am all for experimenting and listen to some weird shit but this doesn’t work. The title track starts out with Gareth oinking and screaming thru a verse. He isn’t a member of the band so it’s kinda weird that he is as prominent on this as he is. The title track isn’t bad but it sounds more like the first album by The Contortionist which walked that dangerous metalcore/deathcore line. This song has some great playing and overall sounds good.
If you aren’t a fan of death vocals, you are really gonna have a tough time with “Second Genesis.” Honestly it feels more like Ross is the guest vocalist on this album than Gareth. I think if it was one or the other vocalist and they wrote more to that vocalist’s strength, it would work. “Second Genesis” does work at times but too often I found myself wanting to listen to “Affinity” by Haken. I think I will do that now as a palate cleanser.
1. Lost Within a Memory
3. Secondary Genesis