Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel - (9/10)
Published on November 22, 2014
Holding down the fort…
Australia has built up an excellent reputation for producing acts that are treading beyond the common genre standards and in the progressive realm the name of Ne Obliviscaris (Latin for “lest we forget”) has been making quite some waves, not least since the release of their debut Portal of I in 2012. Their second effort, Citadel, has been a highly anticipated album this year and the Australians continue to dazzle with their unique blend of progressive metal, death metal and almost ambient-like passages, but if the name Opeth pops up in the head now, this is a completely different kind of beast.
Where Portal of I still showed some light issues with balancing the harsh and the melodic and had a tendency to maybe overcomplicate things here and there, these issues have been skilfully taken care of on Citadel, creating a progressive chunk of metal that still has surprises pop up left, right and center. There is something to how they weave the dreamy violin and smooth clear vocals into the complex and at times almost jarring counterpoint of jazz-influenced, heavy progressive death metal that makes them stand out from the majority of their contemporaries and it shows a lot of skill to channel these different elements into an ultimately cohesive and flowing whole.
The album is basically split into three parts, three-part “Painters of the Tempest”, “Pyrrhic” and closing duology “Devour Me, Colossus”, with one of each forming the musical cornerstones of the album. After the atmospheric intro “Painters of the Tempest (Part I): Wyrmholes”, Ne Obliviscaris paint their musical landscape with bold colours in the 16+ minute epic “Painters of the Tempest (Part II): Triptych Lux”, covering the whole spectrum from blastbeats to a very quiet breakdown and literally everything in between, but they do it with such ease and a flow that the listener is pulled in and taken for a ride through the myriad of complexities without overtaxing him, balancing harsh growls with excellent clear vocals and intricate song structures with beautiful violin pieces, yet making sense throughout.
But one shall not expect the violin to be used in the style of My Dying Bride or Tristania, instead Ne Obliviscaris use it in many different ways, harmonic, elegiac, but also disharmonic, if needed, to the best overall effect. It is all too easy for a band to lose the listener in their quest for ultimate progressiveness, but the Australians have grown leaps and bounds compared to the already impressive debut and chisel a homogenous statue out of the many different influences that leaves you in awe. The shorter pieces are instrumentals, either with just acoustic guitar and violin (“Painters of the Tempest (Part III): Reveries from the Stained Glass Womb”) or spacy with a lone violin slicing through the atmosphere (“Devour Me, Colossus (Part II): Contortions”), helping to even out things and give brief moments of respite.
Despite its attack into almost all directions, Citadel is an impressively cohesive and focused album that, contrary to many similarly categorised albums, deserves the adjective “progressive” by their ability to take all these different bits and pieces and fusing them together in a structured way that avoids chaos and clutter. For fans of progressive and demanding music, Ne Obliviscaris’ sophomore effort is a must and probably a contender for many year-end lists!