(Our friend groverXIII reviews one of the best albums of 2012, the long-awaited, eagerly anticipated full-length debut by Ne Obliviscaris.)
[EXCEPTION TO THE RULE WARNING]
Five years. Five very long years have passed since the release of Ne Obliviscaris’ impressive 3-song demo, The Aurora Veil, one of the most polished demos I’ve ever heard. The impressive mix of black, death, and progressive metal displayed there had me yearning for more, and finally, the band have released Portal Of I. The album features the three tracks from the demo (re-recorded, albeit very faithfully to the originals) and four new songs, all of which fit together perfectly to create one of the year’s best progressive metal albums.
Musically, Ne Obliviscaris (Latin for “lest we forget”) bear certain similarities to Ihsahn’s solo work as well as Enslaved’s more recent material, but that comparison doesn’t really do the band justice, because they don’t really sound a great deal like either band. There is the basic framework of black metal, with scads of lightning-fast double-kick drumming (courtesy of drummer Daniel “Mortuary” Presland, who has previously been named as the Fastest Feet in Australia) and tremolo-picked riffs, along with the throaty roar of vocalist Xenoyr, but that’s only part of the story.
For starters, there’s the interplay of guitarists Benjamin Baret (leads) and Matt Klavins. Baret and Klavins play off one another almost constantly, with Klavins generally laying down base riffs and Baret providing counter-melodies and lead flourishes. There’s the clean vocals and violins, both performed ably by Tim Charles, who adds another layer of melody alongside Baret and Klavins. And then there’s bassist Brendan “Cygnus” Brown, whose work on the low end isn’t limited to simply following the riffs. Brown makes sure that his bass plays as much a role as the other instruments, allowing him to add to the sonic tapestry while still maintaining the foundation of the songs. And the aforementioned Mr. Presland does an excellent job keeping things interesting, no small thing when most of his beats are over the top of his ever-present double-kick.
The album’s new tunes, as I mentioned before, fit perfectly with the already-familiar old songs, and I see that as a sign that this band are already confident in their sound. Ne Obliviscaris maintain a lot of what they initially did with The Aurora Veil on Portal Of I, with extensive song lengths (with the exception of ‘Of The Leper Butterflies’, the songs all clock in around 10-12 minutes long) and excellent use of quiet, introspective passages to provide variety. The album is not something that you can really listen to in small pieces, as a result; to properly experience it, you’d be best suited listening to it as a whole. There are a lot of subtle intricacies that aren’t necessarily apparent on first listen, and that’s one of the album’s greatest strengths. It’s a tribute to the band’s musicianship that I’m still discovering new wrinkles every time I listen, even with the songs that were on the demo.
If there is anything to the album’s detriment, it’s that I’m having trouble finding specific portions of the album that really stand out. There are little melodies here and there, guitar leads and bass flourishes that do occasionally stand out in my mind, but even now, I can’t really identify them until they happen. It’s a product of the album’s expansive scope, really, which is fine with me anyway… I’m one of those people who prefers to listen to albums as a whole instead of single tracks. But it’s also a product of the entire album being this good, which is also fine with me. In a year that promises progressive new albums from the aforementioned Ihsahn and Enslaved, as well as the already-released Diablo Swing Orchestra and Sigh albums, Ne Obliviscaris have come through with an unforgettable album of their own. Five years? It was worth the wait.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Portal of I is available now on Amazon mp3 and iTunes. For people who want physical CDs and shirts, you need to go to THIS STORE. To learn more about NeO, their Facebook page is here. And for those of you who haven’t yet heard NeO’s music, it’s time for you to take the plunge:
Album of the year for me. The delicious bass, the violin, the guitars and the great way they work together, the raspy vocals, the drums, everything here is near perfect.
Best part of the album? When the bell/cymbal hits at the beginning of “And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope”, and suddenly the drums and bass join in. I Jizz in my pants every single time.
Damn love the songs!!!! just amazing!!! will need to get this!!!! @islander I think if you continue to recommend awesome bands like this one, going broke!!! 😛
Everything on this album is just… perfect. Old Man Windbreaker can’t describe it any better than you did.
One shall mention the overlaid harsh & clean vocals though, often singing different parts. Although it is overwhelming at times, and frustrating to follow both singers at once, one is enjoying this quite a bit. [Also, it reminds one a little of Strapping Young Lad‘s Alien.]
Speaking of the lyrics, one hasn’t been able to make much sense of them yet. Anyone have any interpretations to offer?
I forgot to mention the overlaid vocals, didn’t I? Whoops. Yeah, that was just another layer of interestingness to this album.
Dat bass (drum)!
Such a terrific album. There’s really not a weak moment for me from beginning to end, and I’m so pleased by how much I like the new tracks after worshiping so long at the altar of The Aurora Veil. I hope the new drummer they got to replace Daniel has the feet for the job (I mean, I’m sure he does … he has to, right?)
I do find that it’s maybe a little long for one sitting. I’m an album-oriented guy who prefers to sit down with a whole album, but I do find that no matter how much I love “Icicles” and “Petrichor”, by the time I get that late in the album my attention does start to wane. Doesn’t make me like the album any less, and I wouldn’t shorten a thing. I’d rather have too much of a good thing than the other way ’round.
Love, love, love it!
This is neck-and-neck with Sigh’s In Somniphonbia and Allegaeon’s Formshifter as Album of the Year for me. Damn fine work.
Didn’t realize that it was on iTunes yet, was waiting on Amazon. I wanted to snag a pre-order, but apparently they don’t ship outsid of Oz and New Zealand – or at least they didn’t when I tried to check out. I’ve heard the songs already, thanks to YouTube. What can I say, I was impatient. However, it only confirmed what I already suspected, Portal Of I is easily an album of the year candidate and worth the wait – and worth buying.
Certain bands seem to evoke a Pavlovian response on the internet, and here at NCS is no different. For me, Ne Obliviscaris joins the like of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Canopy and Thy Catafalque as bands to keep close. Of course, there are many other bands worthy of attention and praise, but I think this is one of those bands that’s on a level with few peers.