Review Summary: Glorious refrain.
Looking back, it’s perhaps plausible that Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris just made too
big a splash with their debut, Portal Of I
. It was massive, progressive, a sprawling landscape full of lush, explorative compositions. Frankly, fans became doubtful if this six-piece would ever achieve the same lofty heights ever again. Two years later, Citadel
caused disbelief. The lightning in a bottle formula wasn’t contained to a single outing. Despite a slight line-up rejig (the guitarist in this case) Ne Obliviscaris would again turn heads with their approach to bombastic compositions and progressive leanings while maintaining their epic nuance. Three years later and Urn
’s impact would fare no different, but in itself it became the turning point as Ne Obliviscaris began taming flair and pomp in lieu of something more matured, melodious and put together. As amazing as Ne Obliviscaris’ debut is, it contained a frenetic energy that could be occasionally compared to an idea salad. Artistically designed, but a salad, nonetheless. With that in mind, one could forgive Ne Obliviscaris for not having the foresight to deal with both covid-led implications and the hunt for a new drummer extraordinaire. Exul
would take six long years to see the light—but that’s not the hot topic here.
is by far, worth the wait.
No, this isn’t hyperbole. It’s true. Ne Obliviscaris’ newest record is held together by sombre strings and gentle swings in the atmosphere. Exul
sounds grand, cinematic and majestic from every angle. It’s magnificent from the salubriously wholesome “Equus” to the discordant violin ebb and flow of “Anhedonia”...not to mention everything that lies between. “Equus” builds powerfully, a foundation of groove and subtle melody shaping the framework of the entire album’s run. I would argue that the track itself isn’t just the strongest introduction to a Ne Obliviscaris album but establishes the band’s best album to date. While new listeners might find the vocal interplay and duality of Marc "Xenoyr" Campbell’s harsh screams and the cleans of violinist Tim Charles there is a lot going on here at a compositional level.
Understandably, the “Misericorde” parts, both one and two dominate a larger portion of the focus of Exul
and yet, Ne Obliviscaris is a complete highlight
. “As the Flesh Falls” and “Anatomy of Quiescence” simply can’t stand above the rest of this excellent tapestry, but they do follow and lead into their respective tracks better than anything the band has produced so far. Individually, these two are prime examples of top tier progressive music. The former is ferocious, lighter sections scattered here and there to break up speed runs of death metal goodness. The latter, however, flips the script, taking a hold of the cinematic prose with compositionally smooth, string focused melodies. Together, these two tracks are the most dynamic Ne Obliviscaris have been without blowing wads of cheese through unready speaker sets. “Anatomy of Quiescence” is a perfect
Are we in hyperbole territory yet? Fuck no. It’s taken me the better part of three months to articulate just how grande the crescendo of “Anatomy of Quiescence” builds and then fades into a rung-out chord full of nothingness. “Suspyre” gets a fresh start, room to breathe and swells without the weight of the album’s half-point. As such, “Suspyre” roars into life, clear bass noodling intertwining with sensual violin melodies (as much of the record before it). Tim takes control of the motif with strong clean vocal phrasings, but Marc is simply not outdone here, providing a well-placed sense of dichotomy. The yin and yang of Ne Obliviscaris’ music locking into place showcases just how this little progressive act has matured. It’s the album’s overall equilibrium that sets Exul
and even [unbelievably] Portal Of I
. Even as the grit of “Suspyre” and “Graal” outlines dissonance and further doses of aggression from Exul
’s end half, the band’s music returns slight familiarity with other significant cuts—the new ground of closer, “Anhedonia” again holds standard. Aloof compositions bleed morose emotion, gentle swells in orchestral violin and piano while vocal wailing blends music into an introspective atmosphere. The level of immersion here is higher than what Exul
has showcased throughout its more ‘standardised’ cuts…an audible ride through Ne Obliviscaris’ world after all these years.
Soaking up Exul
in a single listen is a disservice to both the album and those would hear it. Not because it’s at all difficult to listen to, but because there’s so much to uncover in every nook and cranny of the music under that name. Exul
may have taken six long years to reach fruition, but Ne Obliviscaris is almost larger than life, so perfectly ready that it surpasses everything the band has produced thus far. From start to finish Exul
is ripe, ready and cements this group in the upper echelon of progressive heavy music.