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Ne Obliviscaris | ‘Urn’

Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris are a progressive metal band in more ways than one.

Not only is their music grand in scale, and features virtuosic playing and song writing, but they run their band in new ways which have earned them praise and critics.

After gaining the attention of the underground metal community with their debut album, ‘Portal Of I’, they were the first band to successfully crowd fund a world tour, given they could not personally afford the huge travel costs coming from Australia.

Two years later in 2016, they were the first band to launch a Patreon (a service where fans pledge to donate set amounts each month in return for exclusive content) to help their long term financial future after they lost their jobs to fulfill their world tour.

These new approaches to raising band revenue has worked well for the band as they were able to finish their touring and record their 3rd album, ‘Urn’.

Early Climax

The opening track ‘Liberia’, spends most of the first 90 seconds based around the same repeating chord progression, first clean, then beefed up in epic style.

The first verse is where the album starts to really get interesting.

While the drums on the verse feature frantic double kick work and a blast beating snare, the laid back cymbal work and the long clean vocal notes make the song build into the chorus rather than climax straight away.

Liberia, like most of the songs on this record, repeat musical ideas and lyrics in new ways.

The clean vocalist sings of how “wilted horses dream of lions” in an inspiring melody, but when repeated with harsh vocals during the chorus it takes on a darker hue on the concept.

The lyrics on ‘Urn’ are quite visual, yet abstract, creating a picture that the listener needs to interpret for themselves.

Intra Venus

The most obvious element of Ne Obliviscaris’s sound is the violin.

It carries many of the most important melodies on the album (‘Urn’ Pt 1 and ‘Eyrie’ in particular) and gives a nice counter solo voice compared to the guitar solos – with a brilliant solo trade off between the two in ‘Intra Venus’.

However it is appreciated that ‘Urn’ only contains one track that would be considered a solo violin piece, compared to their last outing, ‘Citadel’, which featured 3 solo violin pieces. This change gives ‘Urn’ a better flow and more playability compared to ‘Citadel’.

Another defining feature of Ne Obliviscaris is how well the band’s two frontmen work together.

Not only in the contrast between the Xenoyr’s screams and Tim’s clean vocals (which even duet alternative lyrics many times on the album), but also how Xenoyr’s screams work with Tim’s solo violin playing during the verses of Urn and Liberia.

The violin adds an extra layer of tragedy to Xenoyr’s lyrics, depicting a self-brought funeral of mankind.

The stand out song on the album would be ‘Intra Venus’.

It is the only full song on the record under 10 minutes, but packs the most punch into each second.

The song is a brilliant mix of Ne Obliviscaris’s epic take on progressive metal, with their extreme metal roots thrown into the verses that will demand moshing and head banging when played live, and Tim’s chorus vocals fit the song so well and will stick to the back of your mind.

‘Intra Venus’ and ‘Urn’ serve as the album’s heaviest songs and the band’s strongest links to their extreme metal roots. Fans of their lighter side though should definitely enjoy ‘Eyrie’, which is a sort of spiritual successor to their fan favourite ‘Forget Not’.

It sees the band explore epic string arrangements that would belong well to an epic Lord of the Rings-esque film.

Cynical Bass

The main weakness of ‘Urn’ is the role of the bass guitar.

In the previous records, bassist Cygnus was an active writing member with the band, and introduced a unique take on the bass guitar’s role in the band, with many songs such as ‘Devour Me, Colossus’ or ‘Painters of the Tempest’ including bass solos, and musical moments centred on his playing.

However with the loss of Cygnus earlier this year, just before the band started recording, the band resorted to hiring a session musician in the form of Robin Zielhorst (ex-Cynic) to record bass guitar over the already written songs.

While Robin’s playing on the album is respectable and up to standard for a progressive metal band (particularly his fills in Intra Venus), the bass guitar has been reduced to a rhythmic element in the songs, rather than the harmonic role it held previously alongside Ne Obliviscaris’s two guitarists.

Overall I would say fans of Ne Obliviscaris will be very happy to hear new material from them that stands strong against their previous 2 albums, and fans of progressive metal in general will be wise to give their time to this rapidly emerging new band.

The song writing on Urn is epic in scale, sound and arrangement, and very comfortably mixes Ne Obliviscaris’s light versus dark approach to music.

4/5 – Cormac Jordan ::: 26/12/17

  1. I won’t really bother with the album because I don’t like their music, but speaking objectively, the production on that track isn’t the greatest. The guitars are a bit too shrill, the bass sounds very artificial and the drums are too compressed.

    The string section sounds pretty cool though.

  2. Sounds like a decent development on the Borknagar template to me.

  3. Love this album, but agree with the comments on the bass. Can seem a bit of an afterthought at times, which is a shame because Robin’s an incredible bassist. I reckon if was given time he could’ve come up with a few special moments that would have enhanced it

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