Ne Obliviscaris: Portal of I
28/06/12 || Smalley
So far in 2012, I’ve been the most “on the ball” about vacuuming up new metal for GlobalD reviews than any other year to date, which has paid off quite handsomely; I already have a good-sized list of 8.5 records or above, so I’ll be more than prepared for my best-of-year list in December. However, there is a downside to having so many metal options to choose from, which is, the more records you have queued up, the less time you get to dedicate to each one individually. This is why I decided to just skim through Ne Obliviscaris’s debut “Portal of I” after downloading it, and why I quickly deleted it after the first few minutes of its opener failed to click with me; why waste time on these Aussie newcomer that no one’s heard of when there’s just so much good metal coming out/about to come out, right?
Thank FUCK I reconsidered after hearing some more positive buzz online, though, as giving this a second chance has revealed to me one of the better metal records of the year so far, a classy, ambitious, progressive slab of extreme metal, both aggressive AND intelligent/beautiful. Yeah, one of their instruments is a freakin’ violin (and I don’t mean a few cameos, it’s a MAIN instrument), so you could say this is, er, pretty artsy metal. Other may prefer to use another term (like “pretentious”?), but “Portal” still packs plenty of balls, and anyway, while I’m certainly no hater of the more traditional metals, once in a while, you do get tired of just hearing the same ol’ conventions being used over and over, regardless of how well they’re executed, so Ne Obliviscaris seems to be the perfect thing to cockslap me out of my (slight) metal funk.
To tackle the more conventionally metal parts of the record first, black/death fans (and blackened death fans?) should enjoy those, as some of the heavier sections capture the raw, evil aggression and feeling of black; y’now, dark, rough guitar sound, blastbeating, some shriek-y growling courtesy of designated harsh vocalist Xenoy, the works. As for the more death-y sections, Xenoy switches up his voice for a more guttural, traditional death growl, and there’s even some melo death-y songwriting/guitarwork here as well too, which of course, I think are great. As so should you too, naturally.
But what about the avant-garde portions of “Portal”, the thing that actually makes this special…? Well, where that comes in is when you hear designated clean vocalist Tim Charles’s violin playing right behind the guitar in the mix sometimes, but even moreso when everything just calms down, and that classical music staple takes over the entire track. A superb example of this is near the 4-minute mark on the epic, 12 minute opener “Tapestry of the starless abstract” (what’d I say about pretentious?); the harsh guitars fade away, the clean guitars & wonderful violin work ease in for an extended calm oasis in the middle of the track, and the entire experience just feels like the sweet, cig-smoking, post-orgasmic afterglow to a bout of furious sex. And the afterglow (soft stuff) on that song feels better than the actual sex (metal) does; sweet.
However, even after going for seven mins, the opener still has another FIVE to go, so what does Obliviscaris do…? That’s right; they bring back the heavy shit, but also keep the violin action going in near-equal measure, making the two disparate sounds work fully together; best of both worlds, biatch! Brilliant, and the entire record is full of memorable moments like that; beautiful soft/acoustic sections, jazzy interludes, intense soloing, great energy, climatic melodies, contrasting clean/harsh vox that still intertwine brilliantly, hauntingly operatic chanting, and of course, lovely violin solos that manage to shine out despite all the noise surrounding them. Hell, track #4, “Forget not”…? It’s a 12 minute track, and is mostly soft with very little harsh stuff at all, and it still works perfectly here. Well done.
As for the overall songwriting, it has this wonderful, prog-y ebb and flow to it, which is kinda essential when you have tracks this long. The songs are always heading toward something new, and even when they turn on a dime from soft to harsh, the transitions still feel natural, never forced. And as another nice touch, a minor one, but still good, are Brendan Brown’s lively bass lines, and actually do something besides just mindlessly slave along to the rhythm guitar.
Granted, not every aspect here is perfect, as Tim’s clean vocals aren’t really great; they’re more palatable when synced next to Xenoy’s harsh work, but when completely solo, they are noticeably whiny. Some of the parts he does are kind of pleasant, but for the most part, meh. Still, besides that, “Portal of I” is near-flawless, and one damn, damned good slice of brainy, experimental metal, and though it certainly isn’t for every metalhead out there, for those who can dig it, it just may be the best piece of Irish folk music-sounding metal this year. Er, yeah.
- Released: 2012
- Label: Code666 Records
- Website: Official Ne Obliviscaris Facebook
- Brendan “Cygnus” Brown: bass
- Daniel “Mortuary” Presland: drums
- Matt Klavins: guitars
- Benjamin Baret : guitars
- Tim Charles: violin, clean vocals
- Xenoyr: harsh vocals
- 01. Tapestry Of The Starless Abstract
- 02. Xenoflux
- 03. Of The Leper Butterflies
- 04. Forget Not
- 05. And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope
- 06. As Icicles Fall
- 07. Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise