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Ne Obliviscaris: Portal of I

Ne Obliviscaris is a relatively new band out of Melbourne, Australia. Portal of I, their full-length debut, is garnering lots of positive buzz and, fortunately, it is largely deserved. I think this is certainly an album that everyone should check out, especially fans of Opeth, since Ne Obliviscaris channels their canny blend of death / folk / prog / styles regularly throughout this album. The main difference, as Opeth fans will quickly recognize, is the strong presence of the violin on most of the tracks. Played by Tim Charles, who also supplies the clean vocals, the violin feels like a welcome addition to the eclectic blend of music offered up on this release. I confess that it took me a couple of listens to get used to the violin's sound, but once I got the feel for its voice within this style of music, I enjoyed it.

I suggest that listeners new to Ne Obliviscaris give the album a few listens before making a judgment about it. This was especially true for me since I thought that things really took off about half-way through the fourth track. My impression of the first few tracks was that there was just too much going on here; I wondered initially if the band shouldn't just stick with either the death metal thing or the eclectic violin thing. As I listened, though, I found the album to be stronger and stronger with each listen, especially the aforementioned second half. Be sure to listen to tracks like "As Icicles Fall" and "Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noi" for examples of this band at their best. Check out the Metallica-like attack (reminiscent of "One") about half-way through "And Plague Flowers the Kaleid."

For me, the weakest track was "Tapestry of the Starless Abst," mostly because it didn't bring together the various musical textures as well as the other tracks did. When the violin first came in, it felt a little startling; in other tracks, the violin helped weave part of the musical tapestry, but here it just seemed like it was bringing in a violin out of nowhere. I was also a little disappointed with the way the classical guitar on this track sounded--I thought the tremolo picking section in particular was rhythmically jagged, not as smooth as that style of playing typically calls for. Moreover, I thought that some of the other classical or acoustic guitar parts were played too aggressively. Classical guitar playing is a little like slow dancing, rhythmic, smooth, and romantic. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but it seems like the aggressive attack in the acoustic sections should be played more delicately, if only to bring out the unique characteristics of the guitar parts even more. The beauty of the classical guitar is that it can channel multiple voices and dynamics at once. The electric playing, especially the solos, was terrific. Listeners who love great bass players, by the way, will love this album. Brendan Brown's bass lines multiply the notes and the rhythms in outstanding ways. I was reminded, at times, of how I feel when I listen to Geddy Lee.

Track Listing:
1. Tapestry of the Starless Abst
2. Xenoflux
3. Of the Leper Butterflies
4. Forget Not
5. And Plague Flowers the Kaleid
6. As Icicles Fall
7. Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noi

Added: August 6th 2012
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3329
Language: english

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Ne Obliviscaris: Portal of I
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-08-06 14:38:56
My Score:

The highly digitalized cover art gives the impression that this is a typical power metal band playing a hybrid of melodic metal with the occasional guitar crunch and syrupy vocal lines delivering fantasy lyrics a la Rhapsody.

Well, thankfully, that's not the case. Then again, anyone who sees the name of this band should know better. Ne Obliviscaris (Latin for "lest we forget") is an Australian extreme progressive metal band that may be familiar to some for their highly acclaimed 2007 demo, The Aurora Veil.

Five years later, the band has released their debut album, Portal of I. It contains all three tracks from their demo, but they've all been reworked and modified with some parts completely rearranged, and of course, the production is a lot tighter. If you, like me, have listened to the demo a lot over the years, you'll notice that the beautifully pronounced bass solo at the end of "Tapestry of the Starless Abstract" is now hidden under a chant-like vocal melody that may or may not be to your liking depending on your tastes. Also, the overtly heavy buzzing guitar tone is replaced with a more central sound; the guitar tones are wider in scope and carry more tonal definition. This has obviously led to the 'blackened' vibe of the songs to be less readily noticeable; the focus is more on creating bruising riffs and dynamic shifts of tempo on this album.

On the other hand, if you've never heard Ne Obliviscaris before, they're a bit harder to classify. They present a powerful mix of growled and clean vocals, sometimes delivered simultaneously (much like some of the vocals on Ihsahn's last album Eremita), and utilize breakneck-speed drumming, pulverizing fretwork, and dazzling progressive metal arrangements, all supplemented by slowed-down passages informed by acoustic guitars, subtle overlays of jazz fragments, and an ominous violin sound. Unlike most bands in the genre, the violin is used as a key element to define the sound of Ne Obliviscaris; rather than merely adding colour to the metal instrumentation, there are actually entire interludes devoted to the brilliant violin playing, though it never gets too boring to detract from the heaviness of the album.

With rolling drums and streams of melodious riffing, "Tapestry of the Starless Abstract" suggests it's going to be a song 12-minutes of relentless blackened extreme metal with some growls added for good measure, but a few minutes into the piece, the band develops curious rhythmic movements containing waves of riffs that are both melodically powerful and atmospherically dark and menacing, which is exactly what this kind of songs necessitate. The vocals have improved tremendously since their demo days. The growls now hit a much deeper register, alternating between blackened growls thickened by clean singing that evokes Leprous' Bilateral.

The instrumental passages are perhaps the best. "Forget Not" is this band's creative peak. Before the violin-dominated middle, the band presents their instrumental prowess merging into a cohesive whole warped riffs, phenomenal drumming, and ground-shaking bass work. A more 'open' sound is explored in the intro of "And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope," which begins with a great rhythm workout supported by flamenco-like guitar elements. It then morphs into a hypnotic, Ulverian riff-world that will simply transport you before picking up more modern stop-start riffing in the middle and concluding with a nasty, old-school death metal aesthetic that would please fans of Immolation.

As far as comparisons are concerned, the slower parts are so beautifully constructed that they recall Opeth circa Orchid, but due to the ever-present violin sounds and progressive mindset, one also has to think of bands like Winds, Ephel Duath (without their overtly jazz-inflicted avant-garde aspect), Ihsahn's solo material as well as later-day Emperor, To-Mera's instrumental dexterity, Alcest's shoegazing moments for the tension-filled, unsettling soundscapes, and even Between the Buried and Me circa Colors in terms of constructing and integrating immortal melodies into unorthodox sound structures within an otherwise extreme metal framework.

Portal of I is right up there with the year's finest extreme progressive metal efforts and actually surpasses most of them.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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