Novembre: Ursa

Italy’s masters of gloom anticipate oblivion in style

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Reliable purveyors of atmospheric, deathly doom since 1990, Novembre have been heading in a more elegant and texturally diverse direction for some time now.

If Ursa indicates anything, it’s that the Italians have finally claimed some territory that is theirs alone. There are still plenty of familiar signposts to lure in fans of My Dying Bride and Katatonia, but songs like Australis and Easter feel more rounded than past efforts, as if the band’s diverse influences have coalesced into a sound that they can deliver with total conviction.

Inspired by notions of an impending Orwellian apocalypse, Ursa veers from serenity to restlessness and back, striking a balance between incisive melodies and ominous ambience.

Intermittently grandiose and fragile, this exploratory drift through dense mists of mortal vulnerability boasts many stunning moments and artful surprises, but it’s when Novembre really start to flex their creative muscles on the sprawling, semi-instrumental Agathae that the album truly takes off and becomes extraordinary, rather than simply very good.