Nova Collective are a fairly new project that brings together bassist Dan Briggs (Between the Buried & Me, Trioscapes), guitarist Richard Henshall (Haken), drummer Matt Lynch (Trioscapes, Cynic), and keyboard player Pete Jones (ex-Haken). Their debut album for Metal Blade Records, The Further Side, began to take shape back in 2014, and with the help of engineer Jamie King (BTBAM, The Contortionist) and mixing by Rich Mouser (Neal Morse, Transatlantic), the album has finally arrived. What does the music of this union of all-star metal & prog players sound like you ask?
Well, it's all instrumental for one thing, The Further Side consisting of 6 semi-lengthy songs that allow the bands love of all things progressive rock, jazz-fusion, world music, and of course heavy metal to shine through brightly. Imagine if you will a blending of Yes, Gentle Giant, Dream Theater, King Crimson, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, BtBaM, Brand X, Happy the Man, Dixie Dregs, and Return to Forever...sound appetizing? Of course! This is highly intricate, yet melodic fusion, the songs adventurous yet engaging and accessible. Opening cut "Dancing Machines" offers plenty of complex counterpoint and challenging time changes, while the wonderful "Cascades" sees blazing guitar battling synths, organ & electric piano as if it was a long lost recording from the early '70s jazz-fusion glory years. "Air" has plenty of groove, the intricate rhythms and weaving guitar/bass/keyboard lines reminding of '80s King Crimson but the heavier middle section attacking with the ferocity of vintage Dream Theater. Huge props to Lynch on this track, whose drum work is just off the charts as he rumbles and tumbles with plenty of finesse under all the fireworks. The fiery fusion of "State of Flux" is just jaw-dropping, Henshall playing off Jones' nimble synth lines perfectly while Briggs & Lynch weave some insane rhythms, all of it coming across like a midnight jam between Yes, Gentle Giant, and Return to Forever. Some cool Mellotron supports a blazing lead guitar solo from Henshall before Lynch launches into a drum tirade and then more scorching synths and guitar come back into the mix. Just mind boggling stuff. If that doesn't get your heart rate pumping, "Ripped Apart and Reassembled" surely will, a fusion extravaganza of the highest order, complete with scalding guitar work, blazing synths, and wild poly-rhythms. The heavy title track closes out the album, featuring massive guitar riffs and complex bass lines from Briggs, as well as a gorgeous mid section where Jones gets to strut his jazz chops on piano before the band all jump back in for an intricate fusion workout that is chock full of majestic splendor.
Knowing full well the talents of these four musicians going in, I can't say I wasn't expecting great things, but I think the sheer magnitude of just how good The Further Side actually is took me a little by surprise. This could very well be the instrumental prog/fusion release of 2017 folks...it's that damn good.
1) Dancing Machines
4) State of Flux
5) Ripped Apart and Reassembled
6) The Further Side