Here's an unusual release in a lot of ways. The most obvious is that I don't believe it's actually the album it looks like, with its ten tracks that take up over fifty minutes between them. It's labelled a "10-song EP" and "a little preview", presumably because this isn't the entire rock opera that Aldo Nova has been working on for a decade and a half. It looks like the entire thing may span 25 tracks and the rest will see release in the future, but some of it is so clearly musical theatre that it feels like it ought to be staged. Songs like King of Deceit and On the Way to the Psycho Ward seem to be missing something when we only hear them. Maybe music videos will fill that gap. There's one for King of Deceit already.
The King of Deceit, by the way, is a character in this rock opera. He's M. F. Stophalis, the CEO of an international conglomerate called the Daedalus Organization. Our hero, Eddie Gage, signs with them and, of course, later realises that he's signed away more than he thinks he has. As the title suggests, the entire release is a concept album that presumably covers his battles to reclaim his own talent, music and self. It's a timeless story, one told many times but one that's always worth telling again.
Another reason is that Nova hasn't really been putting out other material while he's written this project, perhaps because the core idea of a talented musician disillusioned by the music industry he works in is acutely autobiographical. If you don't know the name, Nova made the big time with his self-titled debut in 1982, which went double platinum and spawned a top thirty single, Fantasy. A couple of further albums did well but not as well and he's hardly been prolific as a solo artist in the years since, with his most recent album of original music being Nova's Dream from 1997. That makes this a comeback release, I guess.
Instead he shifted into writing for other people, his clients including Blue Öyster Cult and Jon Bon Jovi but also a whole bunch who record in non-rock genres, such as Celine Dion, Faith Hill and Clay Aiken. Maybe that's why this album, which is primarily a hard rock album, shifts into other genres at points, most obviously on Say a Little Prayer, the epic of the album, which is a power ballad with its verses rapped. I'm really interested in what the forthcoming second half of this album is going to sound like and especially the various songs that didn't make it. Apparently those 25 tracks are what was left after Nova whittled down the 142 that he wrote over a nine year period.
Don't let me lead you astray. This is fundamentally hard rock, told with the usual instrumentation that you'll expect, fairly comparable to his eighties style but a little more mature and benefitting from 21st century production values. It's just not all it is. Hey Ladi Dadi kicks off the album as if its electronica, all characterful keyboards and what sound like electronic beats, but then it kicks into hard rock gear with the King of Deceit persuading Eddie Gage to sign his soul away. It gets jazzy in the middle and hints at that future rap, but then it's guitar solo time and Nova can still sear.
At the other end of the album, Les Anges is almost a new age instrumental until Nova hauls out a guitar two thirds of the way through. In between there's quite the variety spun out of a hard rock base. Free Your Mind is funky. Follow the Road is singer/songwriter for quite a while. On the Way to the Psycho Ward is often peaceful and even calming, but it also features the heaviest and most blistering guitarwork. Burn Like the Sun is another power ballad that finds a glam metal vibe at a few points. The Bitch in Black struts in the Stones tradition but a little heavier. When All is Said Done nods towards AC/DC but with modern manipulation done analogue, I think. There's a lot here.
And, of course, there's a lot more to come, which is a point that never quite goes away. This sounds good, but I think I avoided paying too much attention to the lyrics because the whole story isn't on this album. If you're one of those people happy to watch each episode of a TV show when it drops, you're probably OK with this, but I'm not. I wait until it's all available until I binge it. Sometimes I even wait until a trilogy of movies is out before starting in on it, especially when it's told linearly. So this is half of an album to me, with the other half due sometime down the road. It's good stuff on its own, as individual songs, but I can't really judge the rock opera until I've heard the rest of it.