In Praise of “Eleventh Hour” by Novena (#5 in 2020’s Top Ten)

There are some albums or songs that immediately transport you back to an exact moment or period of time whenever you hear a certain note or section of a song. Eleventh Hour, from prog metal supergroup Novena, takes me back to the eleventh hour of the pre-Covid world and the first weeks of the pandemic, and thankfully gives those memories a more positive spin. No matter what 2020 held in store, Eleventh Hour was proof that it would be a good year for new music, and it absolutely was.

This album had the potential to be the album of the year right out of the gate – despite barely making my top 5, Eleventh Hour has some of the most innovative and unique prog metal of the whole year (and that’s no small task!). The majority of the tracks on this album are juggernauts of creative energy, with tracks like “Sun Dance”, “Lucidity”, “Corazón”, and “Prison Walls” displaying a level of talent and musicianship that could only come from an A-list cast of musicians from every corner of prog metal. “Corazón” in particular stands out for it’s masterful fusion of Theocracy-esq power metal and intense flamenco, courtesy of Spanish guest vocalist Luisa Santiago, with a transition so unexpected and perfectly executed that made my jaw hit the floor the first dozen times I heard it. The vocal tug-of-war between the splendid beauty of Haken’s Ross Jennings and the ferocious brutality of Slice the Cake’s Gareth Mason works far better than it ought to, often scratching multiple itches often within a single song.

Though Eleventh Hour is nearly entirely comprised of straight home-run hits, there are a few nasty fouls that hold this back from being higher on the list. The very first track on the album is the epitome of filler, and “Indestructible” is a noticeable step down in quality from the track preceding it and the stellar closing suite that follows it. The drums also sound noticeably weak throughout the album, making moments like the epic intro to “2259” feel duller than they ought to feel. But even with these gripes, Eleventh Hour raises the bar for what prog is capable of doing, and what happens when the best creative geniuses come together to make something truly special.

If you have thoughts, let me hear them!

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