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PORTAL OF I

Ne Obliviscaris

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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4 stars So for those of you who do not know who Ne Obliviscaris are, they are an upcoming Progressive Extreme Metal band from Australia who have been around since 2003. The name "Ne Obliviscaris" itself is a Latin phrase, which translates into "lest you forget". Before the release of their debut album which I'm about to talk about, they also released a demo EP in 2007, called The Aurora Veil, which featured early versions of three songs to be featured on the debut album, "Tapestry of the Starless Abstract", "Forget Not", and "As Icicles Fall". This caught the attention of many people from the progressive metal underground, and anticipation towards this release has steadily increased up to this point.

Now we at last get to hear their first fully-realized effort after five years of eager anticipation, with Portal of I. With this album, we see (and hear for that matter) the band venture forth into early Opeth and Yes territory with a short seven-song track listing and many of those songs exceeding the ten minute mark. Only two songs fall short of the ten minute mark, those being "Of The Leper Butterflies" (5:55) and "As Icicles Fall" (9:27), but by no means are they bad songs as a result.

The music contained within this album features a variety of different instruments, including keyboards, acoustic guitar, and even violin, something heard much more often in symphonic progressive rock, as opposed to progressive metal. Nonetheless, it is a welcome addition to the core sound of this album. Melodic singing, shrieking, and growling vocals are all implemented to convey the album's complex, philosophical themes and lyrics through each individual song. There is a heavy black metal aesthetic throughout the album, as high-pitched black metal tremolos are often played, but death and thrash metal influences are also on full display here. Despite these more "extreme" influences, progressive metal is the true calling card for these men, as they are able to use atmosphere and musical diversity to encapsulate the listener into the world Ne Obliviscaris has created.

"Lest you forget" to pick up this album, I highly recommend that everyone go out and show this upcoming band your support! An excellent start for a very promising career!

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Send comments to Codera the Great (BETA) | Report this review (#780443)
Posted Saturday, June 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Portal Of I" is the debut full-length studio album by Australian progressive extreme metal act Ne Obliviscaris. The album was released through code666 in June 2012. The band released the highly praised "The Aurora Veil" demo in 2007 and I've heard the occasional information since that they were working on a debut album, but I wasn't counting on it to take a full five years for them to complete it. The fact that all three tracks from the demo are also included on "Portal Of I" (in re-recorded versions) makes it even more incredible that it took them five years to write four new tracks. There are probably other reasons for the long recording break, so don't put too much into my babbling.

Not surprisingly, since all three tracks from "The Aurora Veil" are included, the music on "Portal Of I" pretty much continue down the same progressive extreme metal path as the sound on the demo. It's majestic, dynamic, progressive and structurally challenging. The vocals alternate between raspy black metal type raw vocals and clean vocals. The latter type vocals are delivered by violinist Tim Charles. The man can sure handle the fiddle, but I'm still not too impressed by his clean vocal style or the melody lines he sings. This is purely a subjective observation though and objectively there's nothing wrong with his vocal skills. I just have a hard time appreciating his voice and the way he uses it. Fortunately that's only a minor issue and the rest of the music is of high quality. I'm extremely impressed by the high quality of the playing on the album and the adventurous approach to songwriting. These guys can go from aggressive blasting sections right into a mellow violin led section and make it sound natural.

At 71:40 minutes distributed over 7 tracks, "Portal Of I" is a very long album, but it's one of those rare long albums that don't feel too long. Too much goes on at all times, that I'm kept on my toes and my attention never wanders. Except for my slight issue with the clean vocals, the album is a really great experience if you enjoy progressive extreme metal. The sound production is clear and powerful, the musicianship is excellent and the tracks are so well written that I can't help being very impressed by the compositional skills of the band. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is fully deserved.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#800835)
Posted Sunday, August 05, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ne Obliviscaris - "Portal of I" 13/20

46th place album of the year 2012

Of the many metal album of the year lists I have studied in order to diversify mine, Ne Obliviscaris' "Portal Of I" seems to be one of the common factors in many. The album, which took all of 8 years to come to life, is 72 minutes of layered, complex, and sometimes quite beautiful progressive black metal. The exact genre of this work is debatable, with elements taken from both death and symphonic metal, and various bluegrass and classical influences on Tim Charles' violin parts.

I discovered NeO after a recent series of concerts in Australia, aptly named "Progfest". Due to the mediocrity of the New Zealand music scene and the non-existence of the New Zealand progressive music scene, I have recently turned my focus to these Australian bands, with hope they will bring this festival over the ditch one day. This has also led me discover other great Australian bands such as Be'lakor, and especially Chaos Divine (whose shirt I am actually wearing as I type). I later come to discover that one of the faces behind this festival, and its promotion company, Welkin, is Ne Obliviscaris vocalist and violinist Tim Charles. He really deserves all the congratulations he can get.

Portal of I consists of only 7 tracks in its 72-minute lifespan, with all but one falling over the 9 minute mark, and in their field of melodic extreme metal, it immediately brings Opeth into mind. Thoughts of Akerfeldt and his men come back throughout the record, with many of the tracks following the same song structures Opeth utilise, along with a couple of riffs (a certain one in "Forget Not" comes to mind) taken directly from the Opeth book of slides and slides and occasionally palm muting. I am not entirely familiar with the black metal genre, but the parts I understand from that scene hear are the use of 'shrieked' vocals (as opposed to growled) and excessive double-kick drumming. I have to admit, these are two of the weaker aspects of this album, and like with this year's other melodic black metal release (Enslaved's "RIITIIR"), I feel the album could be stronger without, but at times it definitely works with the mood.

Like with Opeth, and other black metal bands, the metal side of the music is less solo and riff-based, and more focused on the atmosphere, but when they do break out a decent riff, it is quite memorable (the opener of "Xenoflux" and about 7 minutes into "And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope" come to mind). Continuing with the focus on atmosphere, NeO often break from the pummeling of the black metal drumming to acoustic instrumental passages, again reminding of Opeth, but with more use of violin, and often all 5 instrumentalists join in without it being cluttered, to create a very ambient, almost post-rock atmosphere. These are very relaxing, especially the break in the opener "Tapestry of the Starless Abstract", which relies on relaxed fingerpicked chords with violin solo, you become almost lost in the music.

Despite the very nice effect both the clean vocals and violin have on the music, at times the parts seem like more of an afterthought, wavering over the heavy music, rather than flowing within it. This is especially evident during "Of The Leper Butterflies", and the last few minutes of "Tapestry of the Starless Abstract", especially with Xenoyr's growling underneath, often the listener is bombarded with far too many things to focus on.

I was thinking about going through this album track-by-track, but it would be over 1000 words long, and I would end up repeating myself. So I'm just going to focus on one track here. The best, the most important, and the title track. Although there aren't any title tracks as you can see, the phrase "Ne Obliviscaris" is latin, and often used as a motto (most famously for Scottish clan Campbell), translates roughly to "Forget Not". "Forget Not" is also a unique name for a track, because it's the only one on the album that doesn't have an insanely badass name ("Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise" is probably my favourite song title of all time). It is also the longest (tied with "Tapestry?"), so the band obviously wanted it to be the 'centrepiece', and with a 6.5-minute instrumental intro, it really does stand out.

The intro to Forget Not is the best part of the album, and one of my favourite pieces of music released this year. It focuses primarily on the violin, with all the other instruments falling around it, unlike many times in the album, where the violin feels added on the top. Tim Charles gets some of his best runs on the violin here, and the entire atmosphere of the music is incredibly relaxed. It slowly builds up to the black metal drumming and the best riff of the album. Stolen straight from the Opeth book, I honestly couldn't care. After 5 minutes and 57 seconds of build up, that slide riff is what sells this album for you. If you didn't want to buy it after that, you can't hear right.

And that's not it. Less than half of the song completed, "Forget Not" now goes into metal mode, but it is still as melodic as ever, but this time it's Tim Charles' vocals in the focus, with Xenoyr's growls crunching underneath. The thundering climax of the song showcases some of Charles' best vocal work.

A masterpiece of how to build a song, and have every piece of the build up pay of with the combination of the Opeth riff and Tim Charles' wonderful tenor. The return of the violin at the end, this time soaring over the top of an epic black metal part is truly wonderful. This is the part when you really need to have the bass down a bit, because otherwise you'll miss it. This is a song I think everyone should hear. No matter your opinion on black metal, this is a masterpiece of music.

This review has been rather positive, and I'm sure anyone (no one?) who has read the whole thing is wondering how it reflects my rating of 13/20. This is just my opinion of it, because I dislike growls and the black metal drumming. Both of these dislikes are petty, but it does affect my lists and rankings. However, I feel every time I listen to this, it should be higher, and in time I'm sure it will move up. Like with any über-complex album, the more you listen, the more you hear and understand, and the more beautiful it becomes.

How many times have I played this album: 10 Will I play it again after this: Yes. Plenty of times. And that, I think, is the sign of a great album, regardless about what my ranking gives it.

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Send comments to Gallifrey (BETA) | Report this review (#823571)
Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars Although I am just over the ditch as it were, I must confess to not knowing a great deal about Australian bands (apart from the more well known ones such as The Angels, Cold Chisel etc). But, one of my favourite prog albums of all-time hails from there (Aragon's 'Don't Bring The Rain') so when I saw this described as "Intense Progressive Extreme Metal like you never heard before" I was intrigued. I then noticed that it had been mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Ihsahn, Katatonia, Devin Townsend), which also got me interested. I mean, why would someone of this stature be involved with an unknown band from Australia? What is going on?

It didn't take long to find out the answer, all I had to do was put it on the player. This is an incredibly intense album, and in many ways indescribable (which isn't exactly helpful to anyone who hasn't heard it). It is clear that these guys are operating at an incredibly high musical level with a line-up that includes violin, two guitars, bass, drums (which is intense, I mean, they can all play but the speed of these double bass drum hits are stunning), clean and extreme vocals. Their influences are at times classical and progressive while at others they go through the extreme genres of black, thrash and death metal while also not being afraid to be extremely melodic at some times and insanely over the top at others, and of course you can also add jazz and acoustic noodlings to the mix as well.

But what makes this work so incredibly well is that it doesn't feel like a hotchpotch when one is listening to it, it just makes total musical sense. There is a clarity and single purpose of vision that is outstanding, and I won't be surprised to see this make 'album of the year' in many quarters ? not bad for such a complicated and complex musical offering. All power to Aural Music for digging these guys out and giving them the opportunity to impress on a larger stage. Of course, now I know about them I'll have to see if they're heading this way for some gigs ? you never know.. www.auralmusic.com

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Send comments to kev rowland (BETA) | Report this review (#845688)
Posted Friday, October 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
CCVP
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Next big thing in progressive metal? Maybe in the future, but definitively not for now

From time to time, a band arises in the progressive rock (and metal) community that claiming the position of possible big guysin the scene and, in 2012, Ne Obliviscaris has taken that place. Obviously, for being in such position, their debut album was for many times discussed and talked about by the community, so I had to see (or hear) for myself if all what was being said did in fact made sense. Also, I feel that it is necessary to mention that, however big the amount of positive feedback, there were people bashing the guys for not being original and claiming they were mere copiers of Opeth and generic symphonic black metal bands. Even though the band had previously released a demo EP some years back, Portal of I is my first contact with this Australian progressive black metal group.

Since the beginning, from the very first song, you can see that, to some degree, the people that praise this album does indeed have some reason in doing so. The compositions in general are indeed impressive and they evolve gradually, they are carefully crafted and well developed, denoting that the guys from the world's largest island did take their time writing and sharpening the material they had for Portal of I. Also, there is the impressive violin and solo guitar parts that, together, amount for the best elements in the whole album; indeed, they are truly awe inspiring, specially the violin parts. Another quite interesting part of the band's opus are the lyrics which, in spite of not making much sense themselves (if taken literally), are quite beautiful in the way they sound and how you need to twist and turn them to get their true meaning.

However, this album does not comes without flaws. starting with the compositions, the strongest element in this album, even though they are very well crafted, the band allowed their influences to be too much in our face, instead of letting them to subtly guide themselves. The most obvious ones are Opeth, which guides most of the album's light - dark, forte - piano, growling vocals - clean vocals aesthetics (these are the whole musical concepts of Portal of I); and Borknagard, whose influence can be felt in how the band portrays their melodic black metal lines, much in the same vein as the Norwegian band does themselves.

Another issue I have myself with this album is with the mixing and mastering. Starting with the former, I feel that whoever mixed this album cared mostly for the base part of Portal of I's sound, because the drums and the bass are way too high. They are so loud that at points they drown mostly every other thing, besides the violin and the highest notes from the solo guitar. Everything else gets inaudible, the music turns into a mass of blast beats, repetitive bass lines and some indistinguishable noise which consist in all other instruments and the vocals. As for the mastering, there are also some problems with the music's loudness; instead of just keeping how the instruments were, the person responsible for the album's mastering decided to make everything louder, making the music get clipped at times, further worsening the problems of the bad mixing.

Rating and Final Thoughts

Having addressed both strong and weak points in the band's output, I must say that both sides on the prog music community are right in their claims to some extent. The guys from Ne Obliviscaris do have a strong chance to impress us in the future whenever they choose to release another album (or when they decide to re-record or re-release Portal of I without so many flaws regarding the mixing and mastering and making their influences less apparent).

For now, however, I feel that, in spite of releasing an album with strong compositions, Portal of I is so fundamentally flawed in such important instances that for some moments the album's qualities are unimportant.

Everything considered, I think that the three stars rating is the most appropriate for this particular album.

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Send comments to CCVP (BETA) | Report this review (#855438)
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This confident debut by Ne Obliviscaris offers up an onslaught of progressive black metal reminiscent of what would happen if you took Sham Mirrors-era Arcturus, strapped a rocket to it, and fired it at the sun. Mostly eschewing the black metal tradition of ominous stage names and facepaint, this Australian crew offer up a vision of cosmic megalomania, Tim Charles and Xenolyr sharing the vocals in which they rant about goodness-knows-what whilst the band play up a storm. Whilst some prog metal groups go for a "proggy bit, metal bit, proggy bit" sort of structure, Ne Obliviscaris go for a more integrated approach, each and every second of the album standing poised between enchanting you with visions of unworldly beauty and punching your teeth in. In short, these lads are ones to watch.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#1008360)
Posted Tuesday, July 30, 2013 | Review Permalink

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