Review Summary: a large change that does not compromise integrity
It’s one thing for a release to be praised almost unanimously across the internet, but it's another when a release is only a debut, independently recorded, and contains a song that is already a part of the curriculum at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, it is safe to say that that release has multiple strong arguments to support Ne Obliviscaris as being one of the most relevant and talented bands out there.
But there are a few things that made me worry about this release. All of the songs on Portal of I were written from the time period of 2005 to 2009 and the album was released in 2012. In 2009, Ne Obliviscaris got a new lead guitarist. This new guitarist had written most of the content on this album. A new guitarist for any band can be risky business. Well it is safe to say that that is not the case on Citadel. One thing you will notice right of the bat is that this is still the Ne Obliviscaris that most have come to love. This is not to say that Ne Obliviscaris has not changed. They have made quite a few tweaks to their sound. The ambiance on this album is different, there is a larger sense of coherency, consists of only three songs split into six tracks, and is 22 to 23 minutes shorter than their world renowned debut.
This album, while still sounding like the Ne Obliviscaris we have all come to love, is a completely different beast than Portal of I. Whether it’s the change of guitarist or general consensus of the band to head in this direction, the result is very pleasing either way. Unlike Portal of I, Citadel starts off slowly with an ambient intro. Then it doesn't ease but fits itself perfectly like one jigsaw puzzle piece to another, into part two of the song (the second track) which is a sixteen and a half minute epic. It has three movements which shows almost all sides of Ne Obliviscaris from the death/black metal roots to the classically influenced songwriting. The only thing that is not on the epic and the entire album are the flamenco guitars with the violin on top which was one of my favorite aspects of Portal of I. While this may kill this album for some, don’t be alarmed. There is a new feature that may win you over that incorporates the violin and the electric guitar which comes up in both the first and second song. This is when they create harmony on the same octave to make a really unique sound that has never occurred on Portal of I or any other album I have heard. Not only is there this new feature but there are a ton of new approaches to their music that strengthens every aspect of Ne Obliviscaris’s sound while still keeping many of the older elements we all loved in Portal of I.
The only thing that I would say did not work out as well on Citadel is the ending. I have to admit that the ending of Citadel was a bit darker and honestly felt like it was played more on the safe side And felt kind of anticlimactic compared to the ending of Portal of I. But in all honesty, it’s a matter of opinion as to whether one album is better than the other because they are both so different aesthetically. The primary importance of Citadel is that it shows that Ne Obliviscaris is versatile not just on a song level but on an album level and shows that they are willing to take huge risks and has hit the mark on 99% of this album. The one I have to give true kudos to is their new guitarist because while he only performed on Portal of I he did not write any of the content and he had a huge standard to live up to and definitely has and we shall see what he and the rest of Ne Obliviscaris have to offer in the future.