Ne Obliviscaris are a very unusual breed of extreme metal band indeed. In fact, I probably might describe as ‘Extreme Progressive Metal’ – at the risk of inventing irritating pigeon-holes and clichés. For those not in the know, this 12 legged riff machine come all the way from Melbourne, Australia and are probably one of the most interesting bands I’ve heard for a long while.
In musical terms, they’re a lot like the wildlife in Australia that you will never find anywhere else or not even remotely close. A very strange and weird species, that appears to be a glorious mix of all sorts of things thrown together by mother nature that make you think “What the hell is this?” – but you think is a really cool animal anyway. Like the Thylacine for instance – the supposedly extinct and near mythical zebra striped wide jawed dog/marsupial thing that you wouldn’t forget in a hurry.
Anyway, enough of the antipodean animal analogies. Ne Obliviscaris blend together a glorious mix of progressive black/death metal in a manner very similar to Opeth, and quite possibly in danger of out Opeth-ing Opeth if that makes sense. Take the opening track ‘Tapestry of the Starless Abstract’. A thundering piece of work that sounds very similar to their earlier works, but then breaks out into a captivating Spanish acoustic guitar piece with a slowly weeping violin that reminds me very much of Joaquín Rodrigo‘s work. Which then comes back with a delightfully supercharged melodic death metal machine gun stomp that stuns the listener, punctuated with violin and guitar solos that reminds me of a speeded up version of a Sins of Thy Beloved track that is jaw dropping impressive.
The band in general appear to be superb musicians that combine lots of different influences woven into their sonic tapestry. Flourishes of black metal, death metal, melodic death metal, flamenco, classical and western art music are heavily prevalent throughout the album. Many bands add them for a bit of variety and atmosphere with varying results dependent on your musical preference/what you can tolerate without being ridiculous (delete where appropriate). Somehow, these guys manage to combine these musical influences and instrumentation in a perfect and very concise manner that outshines many of their peers.
Another observation worthy of note is the combination of clean vocal and growled vocals; some bands can sound awkward and not work very well, but yet again these guys seem to do the growl/sing combo brilliantly. Something worthy of note is Tim Charles, who does clean vocals and violin, he appears to be a fully integrated part of the band with an active duty in this role that doesn’t simply pop up now and again with fiddley-widdley-dee violin antics when required, then doing not much else in-between; like other bands that have a violin player. This, is a pretty good thing in my book.
To conclude, Ne Obliviscaris are pretty damn good at what they do. This album will appeal to those who like a highly creative flavour to their metal, especially to musician types who will take great delight in savouring every musical morsel. At an average of ten minutes per track, some people with short and wandering attention spans may find “Portal of I” at bit too much to take in. In essence, if you find the ‘folk metal thing’ a step too far then it’s advised that you stay clear of this album and band. Metal fans who have some classical CD and Vinyl in their collection will probably find “Portal of I” very enjoyable (like myself).
Wonderfully captivating, dizzying, hypnotic, beautiful and with a sense of deep romanticism – Ne Obliviscaris are a band that you shouldn’t miss if you had problems trying to remove your copy of “Blackwater Park”, “Weather Systems” or “Les Voyages de l’Âme” from your CD or record player because it was so sonically addictive.
You’d better watch your back, Mr Åkerfeldt. You’ve got company…