Nova Collective offer quite a dream meeting of minds in the world of Prog, and have been a hugely anticipated entity since their inception reveal a couple of years ago. Helmed by Between The Buried & Me bassist Dan Briggs and Haken guitarist Richard Henshall, the instrumental project was formed out of Briggs’ admiration for Haken’s then creative apex The Mountain (InsideOut), which (long story short), culminated in the sharing of musical ideas between the two and an eventual collaboration. The Further Side (Metal Blade) is an album that won’t be too surprising for anyone who follows either of their day jobs, but that does offer a new dimension to their palettes.
Briggs, especially out of the two, is no stranger to use of Jazz, whether in the multicoloured fabric of BTBAM, or in his dissident jazz band Trioscapes (whose drummer Matt Lynch is also present here), but in contrast, The Further Side is more of a melodic jazz fusion and classic Prog Rock influenced effort; notably influenced by the likes of John Zorn, but with plenty of contemporary nuances in its mix.
And where such a project could have dissolved into a self-indulgent mess, The Further Side remains refined and focused, retaining as much complexity and depth as it does accuracy and song-craft. Proving explorative and rich in texture, it is deep and complex but never feels impenetrable or daunting, and offers warmth in its tone and atmosphere.
Of course there are plenty of notions that point towards their main bands (as much as they can offer such); notably in Henshall’s guitar tone and the heavier passages that both Haken and BTBAM are capable of, but ultimately this is a fresh and unique venture in their collective cannons. Each song also offers a great degree of variety, from ‘Dancing Machines’ complex and ever-changing fretwork, to the Eastern instrumentation of ‘Air’ and the Progressive Metal and robotic texturing in the title track; but they flow seamlessly and feel like a proper collective rather than mismatched ideas.
Such a collective of prog maestros was always going to offer weighted expectation, and on The Further Side, Nova Collective more than live up to the hype. Far from a vanity outing, this is a very strong body of work which shows another side of those involved whilst still not proving a culture shock for fans of either band, or to those unfamiliar with jazz fusion. Full of technicality and virtuosity, but whilst still retaining strong song-writing prowess and drawing hooks, this is an exciting and very welcoming trip down the rabbit hole.