It’s incredible to think that nearly three years have elapsed since the release of the début album by Ne Obliviscaris. It honestly feels like last week that I reviewed “Portal Of I”, and it is still an album that I play every so often on my travels, or at home on my hi-fi. Which, for a new band is good going in my book when it remains within the upper tiers of my play lists. I see many things come and go, and I often become quite cynical and jaded. Therefore, it’s good to see a band that reignites my thirst for metal.
There are many bands that try a progressive route, but never work entirely. Which may be a case of them trying to hard to be different, which can sound like a disastrous and haphazard mix. The thing that struck me in particular with these guys is how they managed to combine death metal brutality with tranquil classical music passages in a seamless manner. Notably the excellent usage of flamenco styles and world music influences, and the incredible usage of violin that on paper sounds as if it shouldn’t work; but added a new dimension to their sonic tapestry.
So, it appears that Ne Obliviscaris weren’t content with releasing one album and being a curious footnote in the history books of extreme metal. Which is brilliant news, as “Citadel” is a very strong follow up to their previous album. What becomes immediately apparent upon first spin is that they have shortened this album by approximately 20 minutes, and have shaved down the quieter passages which may have made their début album a bit of a chore. In comparison, as much as I loved “Portal Of I” there are parts of that album that may have grated on the attention span of some; a lot like sitting through a 4 hour film that could have easily been cut down to 2 and a half hours. With “Citadel”, they have learned from this; making it sleeker and refined.
The album begins with ‘Painters Of The Tempest (Part I)’; with sweeping violin, haunting piano notes and ending in quiet distant guitar squalls. ‘Painters Of The Tempest (Part II)’ immediately begins with complex almost jazz style guitar patterns and delightfully galloping bass guitar and roared vocals. Then, the violin bits kick in that sound like Vanessa Mae is having a music stand off with “Focus” era Cynic combined with clean vocal passages that immediately bring to mind a James Labrie style. ‘Painters Of The Tempest (Part III)’ makes for a quite interlude, that digs out the flamenco/classical styles of their previous work to a bewitching and captivating effect without dominating the album as a whole.
‘Phyrric’ continues with a bludgeoning feral tech death assault, while violins soar over the top that sound utterly weird on paper; with superb execution and combining guitar solo flourishes. The track calms down like the eye of a storm, then builds up further layers before returning back at full force.
‘Devour Me Colossus (Part I)’ is interesting in the way it manages to switch from clean to feral vocals, like Blood Red Throne in a bizarre exchange with Dream Theater with Steve Digiorio on bass. Violins and clean guitar passages come into the mix once more for variety, before building up the heaviness. The track concludes in an amazing ending 8 minutes in, with a deeply hypnotic bass guitar rhythm, massive galloping guitar riffs, and violin blend that will have you either doing your best air guitar or Alan Partridge bass moment that is by far my favourite track off the album. ‘Devour Me Colossus (Part II)’ conclude in an eerie manner, with spooky violins and monotonous piano notes as a dramatic closer.
Ne Obliviscaris have delivered the goods with this album, who appear to have stolen the crown of progressive death metal from previous holders Opeth. While they have chosen to alienate the genre they helped to create – by recreating 1970s prog rock for reasons that are baffling to quite a few people, Ne Obliviscaris filled a gap that has been left when their backs were turned. I forewarned that this may happen, and to me it has appeared to have been a self fulfilling prophecy. I only hope that Ne Obliviscaris will carry the torch onwards, and continue to succeed.