Review Summary: Ne Obliviscaris display the blueprint of what could eventally become an excellent band.
What kind of album would be more tedious to listen to? An album that is terrible from start-to-finish or something that has moments of excellence buried underneath piss-poor execution? If Portal of I
is any indication, the answer is the latter. Quite honestly, if there was ever an album that needed a heavy-handed producer this is it, because Portal of I
is full of excellent ideas that simply need saving. Over the course of just about any track, one is bound to come across a smattering of excellent progressive death metal riffs, beautifully contrasting violin melodies, dynamic musical changes and powerful death growls accentuated by black metal shrieks. The opening track, for example, should have been a pinnacle example of progressive death metal done right due to its fast-paced black metal-tinged opening and Opeth-ish riffs, but the song quickly collapses in on itself. The first issue to arise is the band’s use of clean vocals that lack the power or range that the song truly requires. Of course, metal fans can generally ignore a bit of low-quality vocals if the music is worth the effort, but the extended acoustic interlude kills every bit of momentum the song had.
These momentum-killing interludes are a normal occurrence throughout the album, and are more responsible for ruining the album than any other element. It’s really a shame because if the sections on either side of the acoustic interlude had made up the entire song, it could have been excellent (assuming you can get past the clean singing). Elsewhere on the album, the songs suffer from a lack of continuity with the various sections seemingly tacked together without any regard to structure. Of course, jarring musical changes aren’t always a terrible thing. The issue is that these songs all seem to be trying to build towards an epic feel that just can’t be sustained when a song inexplicably heads in a direction that seems counter-intuitive to the track’s previous heading. This issue comes in addition to the problem of overall song length. Again, extended song lengths are not a terrible thing but they have be doing something interesting and maintain a sense of momentum (funeral doom being an obvious exception) or the songs suffer. Even the band’s best parts often get carried on for too long which causes the song to slowly fade to a dull drone (until the next inevitable random slow section).
Honestly, there’s no reason to give up on Ne Obliviscaris just yet because this is just their debut, and there’s plenty for them to be proud of. The heavier sections and the skillful way that they contrast with the violin melodies is something that they can definitely build on in the future. The harsh vocals, too, are excellently done and definitely provide an extra dose of power to the music. The unfortunate truth, though, is that these positive aspects are buried underneath the band’s inability to trim the fat and/or recognize when something simply isn’t working within the framework of the overall song. If, on their sophomore album, they can manage to integrate the slower passages into the overall songs, trim a few seconds from each repeating riff and work on the clean vocals, the band might very well end up with the album they were so close to creating here.