Review Summary: With the band's third release, Ne Obliviscaris find themselves at the top of the food chain.
I think it's safe to assume that Australia's Ne Obliviscaris are now deeply entrenched in the elite-ridden world of extreme progressive metal. They've come a long way since debut effort Portal of I
, an album which already heralded a shocking amount of hype even before its release thanks to many across social media deciding to crown the band "the new Opeth". Let's be honest though, Ne Obliviscaris were always worlds apart from their peers. That neoclassical edge coupled with an almost consistent balance between blastbeats and harmonic, acoustic sections of music has practically been the band's modus operandi from the get-go.
With the band's third release, Urn
, Ne Obliviscaris may just find themselves at the top of the food chain. As with their last two full lengths, Urn
begins with a gentle, acoustic intro which swiftly leads into some of the most creative and harmonic musicianship the band have been known to come up with. There's no wasting time as within seconds all rhythm section instruments begin to collaborate, and opener "Saturnine Spheres" gives you the impression that, once again, Ne Obliviscaris have got it just right
. The guitar work is pristine, the vocal range between both Tim Charles and Xenoyr is perfectly balanced, and the intricate violin melodies never overstay their welcome. Both vocalists have clearly focussed their efforts on every song here. Xenoyr's guttural roars still arrive at the right time as the blastbeat-ridden moments of "And Within the Void We are Breathless" ensue, yet his voice doesn't ever seem to overstay its welcome, allowing Charles' almost operatic cleans room to breathe and settle. In all honesty, Xenoyr's range hasn't really developed since the Ne Obliviscaris formed, and those preferring more of a versatile offering from the man will be disappointed. The same can be said for Tim Charles who, depending on what your liking is for clean vocals in this style of metal, may present a slight disadvantage in the album's otherwise consistent performance. That said, the vocal work is certainly not an intrusive aspect, and those who dislike the vocal delivery of Ne Obliviscaris can easily concentrate and what's happening instrumentally.
It's practically the best opener Ne Obliviscaris could have come up with, but unlike other albums of its kind, Urn
doesn't drop consistency levels until the album has ended. "Intra Venus" and "Eyrie" could be two of the best examples for this point. The former brings a much more doom-laden sound and for that reason is darker-tinged during the song's first half, allowing for the last few minutes to indulge in a semi-acoustic, semi-classical outro. The latter is, unsurprisingly, the album's centrepiece. "Eyrie" is arguably the one song where the band have allowed their more progressive tendencies to be fully stretched and explored, but not to a point where you get a strong whiff of self-indulgence. Instead, the 12-minute behemoth utilizes everything that worked well in previous songs and builds on it, providing more of a build-up until the violin explodes with an uncontrollable, almost screeching rage yet one that still somehow sounds gentle in its delivery. This is one of the few songs where the band also begin to feature more technical proficiency than usual, proving that their rhythm section doesn't develop a one-trick pony.
Whether or not you like your extreme progressive metal to be more aggressive and menacing will determine if Urn
suits your palette. The same can be said for the balance between harsh and clean vocals, but one thing that needs to be addressed is that, for the third time in a row, Ne Obliviscaris have developed an album which is proficient in its delivery and confident in its performance. The few aspects addressed beforehand will unfortunately prove divisive among those who have yet to listen to this band for the first time, but for those who have heard and loved Portal of I
, Ne Obliviscaris' third full length will be brilliant.