Review Summary: The new demigods of prog-metalPortal of I
is a stirring trans-genre metal debut that's not easy to appreciate for its full impact immediately. Instead, Ne Obliviscaris demand attention from the opening blackened death barrage of "Tapestry of the Starless Abstract", but challenge listeners with clandestine grace - a nearly inaudible pizzicato violin poses as a dulcimer amidst a prog breakdown. This is only a microcosm of their true specialty in seamlessly integrating unconventional instrumentation or ideas; they breathe life into an almost tired genre throughout the complete course of Portal of I
. The parallels to Opeth are obvious, yet the Australian metallers forge new territory by using black metal (and using it well) where it has been traditionally unwelcome within the "confines" of progressive metal. More realistically, PoI
is reminiscient of a more highly evolved Devin Townsend experimentation - coupling atmosphere with SYL-esque ferocity sans the skullet and fart jokes.
Instrumentally, all musicians are consummate professionals and hold their weight at a very minimum. The screams are evil and the clean vocals aren't vomit-worthy like most prog; "Of the Leper Butterflies" has one of the most memorable choruses for the genre in recent memory. The solos are technical and melodic, the bass is audible and actually useful, and the blast-beats are unrelenting. Notably and emphatically, the violin steals the show on recordings like "Forget Not" with emotion practically dripping out of every bowed note. More important than instrumental prowess, however, is the package as a whole. Portal of I
delivers a well-conceived and meticulously planned composition that has obviously been years in waiting. Music like this isn't made overnight, and the results are telling. Ne Obliviscaris have made their case for replacing Opeth atop the prog-metal pantheon in one strike; their next effort has a lot to live up to.