Writing about 30 albums in 30 days has been a good exercise for me. It has helped me dust off the cobwebs that have accumulated in the writing portion of my brain, and has given me the opportunity to perhaps think a bit more about why I like some of the music I like.
I don’t think I could say it has made me a better writer, yet. But hopefully that will come with time and with some continued writing.
As I’ve been thinking about what album I should finish this endeavor out with, I struggled a bit. Strictly for my purposes, I felt it should be some piece of music that has had a more profound impact on my life. Yet, I’ve already written about a number of those. I’ve hit upon Neurosis, Fates Warning, Opeth, and some others. So, just for fun, I thought I would fire up iTunes and see what album has the highest play count.
And I was blown away.
I actually think there has to be some sort of error in the way iTunes counted things, because it says that I have listened to some tracks of Portal of I but Ne Obliviscaris over 1,400 times. Yet, while I doubt that total number, there can be no mistake, Portal of I was another massive breakthrough album for me, and led to Ne Obliviscaris being one of my very favorite bands.
I wish I could recall how I stumbled across this album. It was something online. There was a lot of buzz building, despite the fact it was the first album from this young Australian band. It seemed there was a bit of a bandwagon forming, so I decided I would jump on.
Again, gut trusted, payoff ensued.
Portal of I is an amazing album, one which, personally, I don’t think Ne Obliviscaris has topped, despite subsequent albums being stronger as albums. Portal of I just has some of the most amazing metal songs I think I have ever heard.
Playing another melange of genres, Ne Obliviscaris is firmly rooted in some of the more extreme styles (death and black metal are a staple of the sound). However, over all this is a very strong progressive component. Many songs are longer than 10 minutes, with multiple passages and recurring motifs, in a fashion that calls to mind classical music to be completely honest.
Furthering the classical music comparison is the central, and really essential, use of violin in the music. It would be tempting to relegate the violin to brief moments here and there. However, Ne Obliviscaris intelligently writes their music understanding that the violin is a central instrument, much like the guitar or bass. Every song is replete with lyrical violin that adds a unique and beautiful layer to the music. Played by Tim Charles, the clean vocalist, it is really present nearly all the time that Tim isn’t singing, and at times plays off the lead guitar as well.
Beautiful really is one of the most effective ways to describe the music of Ne Obliviscaris. Take, for example, my favorite song off Portal of I, “Forget Not”. A tribute to a family member of the band, the first 5 full minutes are primarily violin and acoustic guitar. The music ebbs and flows, building and retreating throughout the entire 12 minutes.
Other songs are equally as powerful. “As Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope” is a monster of a song. Layering clean vocals and black screams and death growls from Xenoyr, this is another song full of crescendo and denouement, an emotional journey from start to finish, that really showcases just how dynamic, moving, and fascinating metal can be.
Make no mistake, this is a metal album from a metal band. Yet, they are extremely willing to push the boundaries of what we would traditionally consider extreme metal, melding different styles, genres, and dynamics to create something that, at least as far as I have thus found, is a truly unique sound. Sure, other bands are doing many of the same things NeO does, but I have yet to find a band that blends them all together as seamlessly as these Aussies do. Add on that, they just come across as a super affable bunch, very willing to interact with fans and to have a relationship with those fans (particularly via Patreon), and you have a band that is super talented and a class act all around. I love all their albums, but Portal of I still remains my favorite, likely as it was my introduction to this fine act.