Review Summary: Carefully calculated, Ne Obliviscaris' debut speeds by at an unrelenting velocity.
About a year ago, there was immense hype for Unexpect's latest album titled Fables of the Sleepless Empire
, and I never quite understood why. The grandiosity was there, full-fledged in symphonic form. The prog noodling was there, quite extensively to say the least. And lo and behold, there were even quirky vocals to sate my progressive hunger. Yet it was a major letdown, all because of how grand it actually was. The ambition reduced the album to a collection of tracks that could never find their footing, and Unexpect fell into the pitfall that many progressive artists eventually do. This type of album is what I was expecting to hear when I heard about Ne Obliviscaris, for the hype seemed to overexaggerate on every level and be premature. However, it's safe to say that Portal of I
is the type of album I was looking for in Fables of the Sleepless Empire
Portal of I
looks like the damned cheesiest thing ever if you’re the sort to judge a book by its cover (I mention this because I know I absolutely did in this instance), and this mindset leads to a bit of unwarranted skepticism towards Ne Obliviscaris. Perhaps what’s most impressive about the group, though, is how they pull off a decent amount of cheese perfectly, incredibly tastefully. Yes, the album does match its cover perfectly. Only in the most magnificent of ways, though, and in the classiest. The band shows maturity on many levels; for instance, during moments where the songs' twists and turns are even approaching being stale, the music always takes a new direction entirely. Examples like these indicate why Ne Obliviscaris' debut full-length is such an exciting and engaging progressive release, one is a long journey but a rewarding one that flies by; and this immediate level of enjoyment is a true indication of what the genre is capable of when the brush is in the right artist’s hands.
Ne Obliviscaris have created an album that’s diverse on many levels, incorporating the atmospherics of black metal whilst never neglecting the technical proficiencies of the progressive movement. The vocals are also perfectly diverse, switching from growls to shouts, from croons to shrieks to fit whatever’s necessary. And one common characteristic of many progressive groups is the inability to write a cohesive song (mandatory BTBAM comparison, etc.), but here each and every song stands out on its own as a certifiable movement. Each track bolsters impact, and knows exactly how it aims to shake the ground below its listener. However, while they're all entities of their own they collectively share key instincts that make the album as incredibly cohesive as it is. While each track is perhaps 9 minutes on average, they never feel unnecessarily bloated - each moment comes across as if it had been carefully calculated, blueprinted on multiple score sheets. The balance between proficiency and emotion deserves to be mentioned as well, seeing as the album features some of the craziest instrumentation I've ever heard, and is still one of the most emotional albums I know. The guitar solos are written in context of the song, and this benefits the album greatly. The mature stance taken on songwriting, as well as the overarching sense of class, ensures that Portal of I
will have a long lifespan in the progressive metal realm, and perhaps even the black metal one. They will only grow more potent, and their next release will be even crazier.