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Ne Obliviscaris - The Aurora Veil CD (album) cover

THE AURORA VEIL

Ne Obliviscaris

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.04 | 13 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Scourge441
5 stars How often do you find demos that are THIS good? Something like this is almost completely freakin' unheard of.

Ne Obliviscaris describe their sound as "music of many extremes including darkness, light, intensity, melody, brutalist and beauty." Yeah, that sounds pretentious as fuck. But it's also an absolutely spot-on description of what the music sounds like. For one, they're labeled here on the Archives as a progressive black metal band, so influences from those respective genres are abound. But that kind of misses what they're about. The black metal influences are limited mostly to cosmetic elements; there's genre staples like tremolo-picked riffs, high-pitched shrieks, rapid double bass drums and blast beats.

The prog influences are much more obvious. If the extremely long songs didn't tip you off (As Icicles Fall, the shortest song on this 3-song demo, clocks in at over 9 minutes), then the sonic characteristics of the music certainly would. For example, while Tapestry of the Starless Abstract, the opening song of the demo, starts with a pretty simple black metal trem-picked riff and high-pitched screams over a blast beat. It quickly shifts into a chaotic amalgamation of distortion, acoustic guitars, melodic bass lines, and pizzicato violin. But these parts are blended perfectly; even with everything going on, it still sounds beautiful and calm despite the obvious chaos. These parts were put together thoughtfully and carefully; they are definitely not the result of the "OMG I can play hard stuff!" mentality that bands like Necrophagist seem to succumb to.

But, since I brought up Necrophagist, I should say something about the technical abilities of the band. These guys can play. All of them. Drummer Dan Presland won Australia's Fastest Feet competition. Clean vocalist/violinist Tim Charles is classically trained in both of his talents. Bassist Brendan Brown has videos of himself on Youtube playing some of their songs (some of which aren't on this demo), if you want to actually see his chops in action. But mentioning these things is pointless, because the musical abilities are obvious to the listener. Each song has its share of sweeps, jumping bass lines, speedy drumming, violin runs, etc. But, like that chaotic section near the beginning of Tapestry of the Starless Abstract, none of it is wankery. If Brendan is going to play a technical bass line, it's actually going to contribute to the song. Each musician utilizes every last bit of his technical ability, but they do it tastefully. Again, they're not like Necrophagist.

"But wait! Does all of that musicianship mean the lyrics suffer?"

Nope. The lyrics and vocals are crafted with the same effort as the instrumentation. If I may quote a short section from Forget Not:

"Down by the waters, beneath the willow drapery

Cold, timeless prince?Cloaked in raven wings

With two penny moons, passage through the boatman

Across starlit waters, where dreamscapes are golden.

Now, I'm not one who places a lot of emphasis on lyrics. But I do know that some of you out there do. And I do know that well-written lyrics can do nothing but make a song better. I realize that quoting four lines out of context doesn't tell you much (not that it matters, since you can look up the rest of the lyrics right on the Archives), but it should be enough to show you that the band does know how to use the English language effectively. They can actually create a vivid image in your head, a skill that a lot of lyricists lack. Those of you who do want good lyrics will be more than satisfied here.

Since we're discussing lyrics, the people singing the lyrics should also be mentioned. I already mentioned Tim's classical training, so you can expect good pitch and control on his part. Xenoyr tends to rely on his shrieks, occasionally going to a lower growl. Both are damn good at what they do.

So, it's quite obvious that every member is talented at everything they do here. There's plenty of impeccable musicianship, with the added bonus of good lyrics. But none of that considers what is possibly the most extraordinary aspect of this demo: the production. Demos are typically cheap, fuzzy, muddy recordings. This demo was professionally recorded, and sounds better than 99% of full-length albums, metal or not.

If you're not familiar with the Loudness War, go onto Youtube and look it up to see a pretty thorough explanation of what it is and why it's bad for sound in general. But basically, it involves compressing the hell out of recordings to make them louder, killing any dynamic range in the process. And, if you're a musician who's studied a little bit of theory, you know that dynamics (volume changes used to emphasize/de-emphasize certain sections and contribute to mood) are a bonafide musical device. So, it doesn't really make sense for the production to take away an (admittedly underutilized) entire aspect of songwriting, does it?

What makes this demo an anomaly is that this doesn't happen. Generally, with the modern metal scene, we have recordings that are sterile-sounding compressed to hell, killing the dynamics, or we have recordings that are so bad that you wouldn't be able to hear any dynamic differences anyway. The Aurora Veil is plenty loud and plenty clear, but the dynamic range is intact and the sound is not sterilized. Just listen to the rising and falling volume of the opening acoustic section of Forget Not; it, and the rest of the demo, sounds organic, alive. Every part is plenty audible, with room to breathe left in. It's a marvel of modern production.

Ne Obliviscaris have released something truly unique. It may be a bit of a grower due to the amount of things going on; it's not a grower on the level of something truly strange and inhuman like Gorguts' Obscura, but it definitely takes three or four listens to pick out the cool little intricacies. And when you put everything together, it hits you like a raging bull on crack. Everything about this is stellar.

I give this demo five stars. If this were an EP, it would probably lose a few points. But it's a demo, as well as being a debut release. The standards here are different, and Ne Obliviscaris have exceeded them.

(Originally written for Metal Archives. Posted here with some changes.)

Scourge441 | 5/5 |

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