British post metallers Vera Grace first drew our attention with their Rotations EP in 2012, a debut quickly standing out from the crowd with strong and imaginative sounds bursting with even richer potential. This potency continued with its equally well received successor, The Lucifer Effect EP a year later. Now a chunk of that promise has been powerfully realised in the band’s new offering Novella, a six track encounter which bares its soul and irresistible craft from start to finish. For personal tastes it is not the perfect proposition yet any ‘issue’ is cosmetic rather than any inbred weakness as Vera Grace confirm themselves as still one of the more fascinating and adventurous band’s on the UK metal/hardcore scene.
The Oxfordshire quintet emerged in 2011 with early singles like Dark Hearts swiftly awakening ears to their provocative sounds. Though it is probably fair to say that Vera Grace has not yet truly exploded to national attention, they have more than drawn a strong loyal following and media spotlights over subsequent years with their releases and a live presence which has seen the band earn constant plaudits and share stages with bands such as 68’, 36 Crazyfists, Feed The Rhino, Devil Sold His Soul, Dead Harts, The Catharsis, Create To Inspire, and We Are Carnivores. Now it is the dark and haunting drama of Novella stepping forward to grip ears and emotions. Like a play, the EP is set in scenes and acts as two separate stories entwine in a tale that involves the loss of faith, heinous crimes, and murder with its subsequent repercussions.
It starts with Exposition and an arousal of sound which swiftly blossoms into a cloud of tangy grooves and mournful melodies around portentous rhythms and the angst fuelled squalls of vocalist Stephen Nulty. He spills anger, torment, and emotional toxicity with every strained syllable backed by the equally intensive lines and swipes of bassist Aaron Godfray and drummer Josh Williams respectively. Aiding and tempering this with raw riffs and tantalising melodic enterprise are guitarists Jonjo Williams and Rich Lester, their creativity bred from songwriting as predatory and imposing as the realisation of its rich ideas.
The potent start is followed by the brief instrumental Act I, a piece reeking desolation and loneliness before 12_04 steps up with almost a grudge to its character and sonic tempest. Again it is more a predator than a rabid beast of a song but with rhythmic sinews demanding and riffs snarling with animosity, the track bristles with contagious viciousness and emotional volatility. Guitars again enthral as the darker hues of rhythms simultaneously transfix with addictive and challenging enterprise, whilst Nulty crawls over it all with vocal ferocity and throat shredding causticity. Truthfully, hopes were that he might have involved a little more diversity in his delivery over time but there is no escaping his potent, and to be fair welcome, attributes in the fierce web of sound colluding with great ideas across all songs.
Act II is an even more harrowing short piece next and like its earlier counterpart engages well but for thoughts might have been a better ingredient in the EP being the breeding ground for the following tracks to grow out of whereas singular they feel like isolated elements. In many ways though that adds to and replicates the emotion of the character in the EP’s concept so no real complaints really, especially as Scene I – Griever slips in on a melodic caress of reflection and evocative calm. There are brewing shadows to it from the first breath too; glimpses at first which evolve into magnetic, almost shamanic rhythms and a corrosive caustic roar infused with emotional intimacy by Nulty. The track is an engrossing affair, the guitars a theatre of expression and sonic adventure whilst the brewing antagonism and ire of the track’s premise is superbly sculpted and inflamed by the masterful dark nature of bass and drums.
Novella’s best track makes way for the closing Scene II – Catharsis, a blaze of metalcore/post hardcore seeded ferociousness and emotion bedlam. To simplify things we tagged the Vera Grace sound as post metal at the start but as in very track and especially raging on the closing treat, the band blends a host of varied and capricious sounds and flavours in their inescapable incitements.
The growth in the band’s sound since that first EP is as dramatic as the thoroughly enjoyable Novella, though it still feels like Vera Grace has yet to tap into their deepest corners of invention and sound. When they do it is going to surely be epic.
The Novella EP is available now!