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Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel [Seasons Of Mist - 2016]

Ne Obliviscaris is an Australian progressive metal band with a huge amount of energy and ambition, crafting bombastic 16 minute pieces filled with emotionally charged shifts from idiom to idiom, taking the epic structure from classic progressive and power metal, the chugging sonic force of death and black metal, and the contemplative chord work of jazz fusion.  They released their debut, "Portal of I", in 2012.  If are looking for metal with the density and scope of a classical symphony, their 2nd album "Citadel" is it.

This balance of elements should be familiar to fans of Between the Buried and Me, or labelmates Disperse.  This attempting to draw all genres and ideas into one massive emotional rollercoaster has become of the most common and beloved forms of progressive rock/metal.  Fans of djent should appreciate the optimistic, compassionate, spiritually focused feeling of the album.

I've a lot more reservation about the 'everything and the kitchen sink' style of composition than the band or my younger self, having lost enthusiasm for Devin Townsend's work after watching his personal voice recede into an orchestra sized ensemble, and having felt irritated on many occasions by forced attempts at genre mixing, such as BTBAM's misplaced bluegrass breakdown, an example of the way supposedly progressive music can devolve into flashy crowd pleasing gimmicks.

However, I cannot deny this band's impeccable skill and earnestness.  Ne Obliviscaris absolutely pour their souls into every minute of this densely composed album, diving into the epic form without a moment's hesitance.  Their sense of melody is impeccable, as is their ability to move fluidly between ideas.  Hearts proudly bared, their music errs on the side of the maudlin, but feels natural and honest. 

Like Godspeed You Black Emperor or other emotionally poignant post rock, every moment in each of their pieces is a sea of feeling, its color running and blending into that of the succeeding moment.  In their hands, an acoustic passage with a weeping violin effortlessly evolves first into a haunting flamenco, surges into oceanic post metal and erupts into a melodic refrain.  Cheesy though their music is, they've avoided the abruptness which always plagued BTBAM, and none of the pieces of their songs feel disconnected from each other, even when running times get long.  They never lose focus on the underlying tunefulness of the music.

The lyrics are unabashedly cliche.  A soaring and pure operatic tenor appears in the most triumphant moments of the album, and draws the band's sound that much closer to Dream Theater.  I cringe when he sings about children who 'sing with open minds'.  I must say, however, that this band generally handles the climactic minutes of their pieces with more skill than Dream Theater, who often separate their songs into clunky and easily recognized blocks, spending several minutes on soloing and repeating a chorus to finish the song, where Ne Obliscaris opts for something closer to a classical approach, driving the music towards its endpoint with a subtlely evolving sequence of chord inversions, letting the harmony itself resolve the music.

The wonderfully delicate tapped fretless bass work is a highlight of the album, as is the sweetly expressive violin, a welcome timbral counterbalance to the amplified/electric sound of the rest of the band.  The band is neither too large nor too small, with a relaxed way of allowing each musician to have the spotlight when appropriate.  The production is bright, clean and modern, the timbres crisp and sparkling, so all the details are audible.

This is a great album.  Listening to "Citadel" and Obscura's new piece of work "Akroasis", it's really nice to hear some other bands challenging BTBAM at their own bombastic genre-mixing game, and coming out with something equally exciting and vital.  I complained about some cheesiness in the lyrics department, but I'm not going to decrease the rating for that, since realistically, this is progressive metal, and that's the way it goes.  I would highly recommend this album to fans of any band I've mentioned in this review.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Josh Landry
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