Review Summary: Ne Obliviscaris have produced a fantastic debut LP that effortlessly masters dynamics, emotion, and mood.
Sometimes it just takes the right formula to bring several familiar elements together into an entirely new one. Australian band, Ne Obliviscaris manages to pull this off quite nicely this summer with their debut LP, Portal Of I. The EP that preceded it came out in 2007 -- and while 5 years is a long time for an album, Portal shows that good things come to those who wait.
When this record was released, numerous blogs and listeners compared the group to Opeth. Being a fan of the Swedish Prog-metal giants, decided to give them a listen. While the dynamics and 6/8 death-waltz sure seemed familiar, Ne Obliviscaris has a definite style of its own. Stirring violin and acoustic guitar segments alternate with walls of blistering guitar riffs and double-bass -- all while keeping the same steady, yet unrelenting drive of power, darkness, and beauty. Though the numerous passages and changes in each song, I can't help but feel whatever emotion these guys are trying to portray. When the album's opener, Tapestry of The Starless Abstract suddenly dissolves into quiet acoustic passage only to reemerge several minutes later full-force, listeners get swept away as Ne Obliviscaris opens the floodgates and immerses them in the intensity.
In terms of instrumental skill, Ne Obliviscaris is in no way shorthanded. The guitars play their parts perfectly; laying down the heaviness when appropriate, and reverting to acoustic playing in the quieter moments. The bass is audible, active, and contributes excellently as well. Then of course, is the inhumanly-fast double-bass stampede of Daniel Presland driving the whole thing. Presland is a machine on this record, maintaining ludicrous speed and precision for considerably lengthy periods of time. Despite all this speed, the drumming manages to stay varied -- with blastbeats, huge fills, and excellent use of effects-cymbals. He also manages to top it all off with tasty grooves during the slower segments that complement the other half of the band's sound nicely.
The defining element of the group's sound is of course the violinist/clean vocalist, Tim Charles. With both his voice and instrument, he manages to balance the dark aggression the rest of the band pours out, and creates the emotional contrast that forms the core of the album's theme. I love the vocal duets, and how both parts manage to overlap, yet never step on each other's toes.
However the most impressive thing about the album is that, as a whole, Portal Of I manages to rein in all of this complexity and dynamics and compose them into sensible and tasteful transitions. There are a few that don't work so seamlessly (cough Xenoflux 2 minute mark cough), but for the most part these guys pull it off spectacularly well. Track 4, Forget Not, utilizes this to the max, and is by no coincidence my favorite on the record.
(As a completely unrelated sidenote, I should make it a point to mention that this entire album oozes the kind of pretension any fan of progressive music is likely to be intimate with. With songs titles like "A Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope" and multiple 12 minute tracks, they're not pulling any punches.
Then again... anyone picking up a CD by a band named "Ne Obliviscaris" (Latin for 'lest we forget', by the way) should honestly come to expect these kinds of things.)
Anyways, I can't stop listening to this record. It's certainly a gem, and no doubt a likely contender for top album of the year in my book. Check it out if you're a fan of Opeth or if you dig metal bands that use violins/cellos.
All in all, I give Portal Of I 4.5 Ominous Latin Phrases out of 5.