12inch_3mm_v92012.inddThe Seasons of Mist promo team must have collectively flipped their titties when the Sydney Conservatorium of Music announced they were to use Ne Obliviscaris‘s “And Plague Flowers The Kaleido” on their teaching syllabus. In a world of increasingly simple and commercial music, nothing screams musical credibility more than appreciation from a prestigious classical school. Mutual respect and musical coalition of the ‘complex’ and ‘respectable’ genres of classical, jazz and metal are commonly used by bands and fans for self-validation and in intellectual dick-waving contests. The one complaint I had about Ne Obliviscaris‘s début LP, Portal Of I, was that it was one of these exercises. It’s a fantastic, accomplished work of art and it was one of my favorites from 2012, but it lacked that feeling. It was a work of aesthetics without a tangible soul.

The same cannot be said of Citadel. Start to finish, there is a sense of cohesiveness and an underlying purpose to the record, beyond mere skill and pretentiousness (have you seen those song titles?). More, the Melbourne-based six-piece retains their unique brand of extreme metal combined with classical and jazz, improving on the already-stellar musical credibility which they crave so. Citadel is the complete package for the discerning prog fan and metalhead, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Ne Obliviscaris Citadel 03It’s not easy to pigeon-hole No Obliviscaris into a single extreme genre. While Portal Of I could be broadly categorized as symphonic black metal, Citadel bears stronger death influences. Compare the intros of “Tapestry Of The Starless Abstract” with “Pyrrhic”: the latter from Citadel bears further down-tuned guitars, a thicker bass drum, and tasty chromatic chord progressions, whereas the former has a more typical tremolo-picked black metal melody. The extreme metal sections here are absolutely punishing, such as on the opening five minutes of “Pyrrhic” and “Devour Me, Colossus I: Blackholes.” The battering blast beats, and the thick, technical riffs, contribute to this effect.

But along with its heaviness, there are the undeniable classical sections. The introduction, “Painters Of The Tempest I: Wyrmholes,” and the conclusion, “Devour Me, Colossus II: Contortions,” enclose the record, slowly breaking you into the complex soundscapes and lifting you away again at the end. Tim Charles’s violin is exemplary, and more varied than on Portal Of I. He uses a greater range in pitch, as well as more minor and atonal notes on these two songs, with the result of a beautifully unsettling experience. The recurring piano keys on these two tracks are haunting and bring the record full circle, while establishing the theme of the record. Charles narrates the quiet, desolate wandering through the eponymous citadel, just as the heavy tracks narrate its eventual destruction.

The greatest asset of Citadel is undoubtedly its ability to surprise the listener. Just when you think the band is settling into a regular rhythm, they introduce a new sound, nail a unique transition or progress to a new phase of a song. “Pyrrhic” will undoubtedly go down as one of my favorite tracks from this year, featuring a jaw-dropper of a breakdown and transition. After blasting the listener with some of the most aggressive material on the record, the tempo slows to a near stop, with ambient noise and a simple drum-line. After building, the background unexpectedly cuts – the use of silence as a contrast floored me. Additionally, the interlude, “Painter Of The Tempest III: Reveries From The Stained Glass Wound” (Pretentiousness: unparalleled), bears a flamenco flavor, with dual melodies from the violin and an acoustic guitar. They even use some djent-y riffs towards the end of “Painters Of The Tempest II: Triptych Lux.” There’s a sophisticated and utterly compelling integration of many components and styles here.

Ne Obliviscaris Citadel 02

If I have one gripe (and I do only have one) it’s the production. Rather than allowing the enamored listener – of which there are many where this hype train is concerned – to gradually unfurl the intricacies of the music on their own, everything is unsubtly shoveled to the fore. There are many layers and instruments going on at various points here, which requires clarity in mixing, but everything sounds far too pristine. Each instrument seems to have been produced to have equal weighting and the same effect – the violin should be more delicate to better contrast the guitars, for example. The kick drum is similarly over-produced, weakening the rhythm component.

Quirky production aside however, Citadel is nigh-on masterful. Credibility permeates everything, from the complex song-writing and varied vocals to the superior riffing, violin-work and interesting drumming. A melancholic note overhangs the record, reflecting the theme of a destroyed society, which gives this record better direction than Portal Of I. I only hope Ne Obliviscaris continue along this path – self-indulgent dick-waving and all.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: NeObliviscarisOfficial |Facebook.com/NeObliviscarisBand
Release Dates: EU: 2014.11.07 | NA: 11.10.2014

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  • brutal_sushi

    YES!!! Can’t wait to get this bad boy blasting!

  • JimminySnakeTits

    Great review. I’ve been anticipating this one for awhile now, and based on the content of this review, I’m certain I won’t be let down. The discussion contrasting Portal of I as symphonic black metal vs Citadel being a more DM-influenced album definitely has me intrigued. One more week to go.

  • Zadion

    Awesome. I’m surprised AMG let this one receive such a high score. Wasn’t HMG prevented from giving Portal of I a 5? Or maybe that’s why you didn’t give this one a 5? Hahahaha.

    Whatever the case, great review, far less quirky than HMG’s review for Portal was. I expect this album to be amazing.

    • Doesn’t deserve a 2.5 in my book. Self-indulgent and terribly produced. Also, HMG wanted to give everything a five. White Wizzard wouldn’t have been the only joke if he hadn’t been reigned in.

      • It’s certainly not Jorn worthy.

        • Grymm

          I think the term we are looking for is “polarizing”.

        • Zadion

          I feel like this “Jorn” thing is going to become a meme here at AMG.

          • It’s all Jorn all the time at the staff ice cream socials

          • Grymm

            Jorn… and death metal albums with a sphere on the cover.

            Just think, a couple years ago, it was John Dyer Baizley covers featuring birds, flowers, and naked women looking to their left. And I say this as a fan of both JDB and Baroness!

          • André Snyde Lopes

            Let’s not forget that all those naked women’s fingers were painted pink for some unexplainable reason. Also the Skeletonwitch cover had a guy who HMG mistook for a woman.

            I kinda miss HMG and his quirkyness.

          • Grymm

            Was the skeleton looking to the left?

          • André Snyde Lopes

            Indeed he was.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Jorn worthy…
          According to urban dictionary jorn is an acronym for…’jacking of right now’…which seems pretty close to AMGs assessment…:)

      • El_Cuervo

        I haven’t done my job if I haven’t pissed you off at some point! Great success.

        You signed up for this when you started hiring other writers :p

      • Scionyde

        “Doesn’t deserve a 2.5 in my book.”

        So in AMG’s book, this album scores a 2.0?

      • Zadion

        Wait, White Wizzard was a joke? Damn, should’ve known…

        • No, he was dead serious. It is a joke now.

          But I shouldn’t be too mean. HMG wrote a lot of reviews and cultivated his own little fanbase. So it’s not a big problem for me that his taste was totally shit.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        You should do that!
        I think what they do is perhaps very ‘mannered’ or overly formal which is my biggest criticism of them. That said they’re so good and your big, pointy bone to pic seems a bit nit picky…I guess what I’m trying ti say is that this release has to be a least a 3.5 possibly more in anyones language .

        • Well, ratings are entirely subjective because they’re about aesthetics. So I can say quite honestly that I think this record is OK, or even disappointing. Disappointing feels more appropriate. Here’s why: 1) the concepts and the musicians seem right on. They’re smart, they’re interesting, they have a core of great ideas. But the execution is poor. Not just in terms of the songwriting—which I think tends towards the overly-indulgent instead of the elegent—but also in terms of the tonal coloration. The drums sound (faaaaake), the guitar tone (thiiiiiiin), the overall production tone (plaaaastiiiiic), the acoustic/clean tone (yech….), the clean vocals (thiiiiiin and whineeeeey) all add up to executing music that I think has potential in a way that I cannot possibly enjoy. 2) Because I see the potential here, I think it’s entirely cogent to argue that this is a 2.0. It’s got a lot of good ideas, but the execution makes it no fun to listen to. Boom.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Gotcha…Can’t argue with that!
            Theres so much going on with this band seems a little like they sacrifice on overall impact for the clarity of all the moving parts so to speak.
            I agree with you on the guitars I really wish they crunched…I still reckon its ‘really good’ tho :)

      • JimminySnakeTits

        I’d be interested in reading a counterpoint as well. I’d also like to know how you feel/felt about Portal of I because I loved that album.

        You seem to give a lot more weight to production and tone than I care about when I listen to music. I’m more interested in the music itself – production matters to me, but I’m not nearly the audiophile you are.

        • In this case this isn’t even remotely about being an audiophile. This is about being a fan of types of tone. I’m not sure how to explain it other than that there are certain tonal approaches that I think work and certain ones that don’t. And I think that the choices that these guys make are choices I can’t get behind.

  • Robert Turnbull

    Absolutely love Portal of I so I’m really looking forward to this release

  • SMOHLG

    Nice. Excited to get this one in the mail.

  • Chronic-Headache

    I want a live album from these guys so bad

  • My issue with this band is that they’re like all of the impulses of modern metal that I have issues with. They have great ideas, but their writing tends towards the indulgent and the linearity isn’t done with the grace of other bands with similar styles. At the same time, while I like their cleans I can’t stomach their vocalist. And all of their tonal and aesthetic choices grind on my nerves (see drum tone especially…). The classical stuff is really cool and I love the electric violin—but I *hate* their guitar tone (particularly clean) and I think their clean vocalist has an extremely irritating voice.

    I really have trouble getting into this at all. And I have given it my share of shots.

    • El_Cuervo

      It is your website after all, I would welcome a counter – point. It must be difficult when your views clash with your writers’, where you don’t write the review!

      • It’s fine. I’m totally OK with it so long as people are consistent and don’t overrate or fanboy. You done good, kid. You done good.

        Too bad about your taste. :p

    • nunka

      Much as I enjoyed Portal of I on the first few listens… over time, I’ve grown to agree with your stance on these pretentious noodlers, AMG (stop the presses!).

      Ne Obliviscaris: all noodle, no meat.

      • TIME TO CARBO LOAD

      • Robert Turnbull

        I find quite a few of the songs on Portal of I really emotive and the album still gets regular spins, along with my other favourite from 2012, Anathema’s weather systems.

        • nunka

          Yeah, maybe. But Anathema’s vocalist doesn’t start to grate on your nerves after a while. :)

    • André Snyde Lopes

      This is an instance in which I can tolerate the indulgence since this is supposed to be some grandiose spectacle. That’s not the worst problem here. The real killer is lack of direction. There are some beautiful passages but no real consequence to them. To keep in the theme of the food analogies, its like one of those tiny gourmet meals: it tastes really great but it doesn’t fill your stomach at all.

      • That lack of direction and follow-through is what I see as being their big weakness in terms of writing. Linearity can work, but it needs a payoff. And these guys have never have a payoff.

        • El_Cuervo

          It’s a weird case of subjectivity overcoming objectivity. The points you make are entirely valid, but I can’t help but love the record regardless – the old argument that it is impossible to be objective over art.

          That’s said, I think ‘Pyrrhic’ does have the pay-off, going from heavy to light, before coming back in strongly with the heavy again.

          • Kevin Dillon

            Yeah idk, the ending of Pyrrhic and the ending of Blackholes are both pretty big payoffs to me. AMG doesn’t like Tim’s vocals but I love them, so that last part of blackholes is just awesome. Lux definitely has good parts but it never really leads to anything. Kinda just feels like 3 songs smashed together, which is kinda what it is.

            The only thing I really agree on is the tonality part. I do feel like it’s a little generic and a little too similar to the last album. I like when bands change the tone between albums.

            I also felt like the album was a little too short, or at least felt short due to the instrumental sections between each song. I felt like there should have been another real song to finish it off.

          • Mike Eckman

            Man, I couldnt agree more. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but this album has everything for me. I’ve listened to it from start to finish at least 6 times since I got it and Im still finding new things to love about it. Unless something amazing comes out soon, this will definitely be my album of the month and most likely in my best of 2014 list!

    • markus o

      i have to agree on vocals… very annoying. but i love the album anyway!

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Thanks a lot for this review! I knew Ne Obliviscaris(correction in the 3rd para) will not disappoint! Really excited to get this album!

  • I would buy the vinyl but I’m so incredibly tired of Season of Mist’s pressings. They need to use different sleeves because they come so damned loaded with static that you can never get your expensive-ass records out of the sleeves without scratching the hell out of them.

    It’s ridiculous. I’m not buying one more album from the label unless they address this issue.

    • Starting collecting vinyl as you have probably figured out by now. What exactly is scratching the record? The sleeve itself?

      • Yeah. I’ve never seen nearly as much static build up on new records in my life.

  • Scionyde

    Nice review. I loved Portal of I, and I’ve really been digging the tracks they’ve released so far on Citadel…even if they have some of the most pretentious-sounding song names in all of metal. xD

    • El_Cuervo

      I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my favourite track is also the one with the shortest title

  • Mike Eckman

    This is one of those bands where I hear all the complaints and I agree with them, yet I don’t care. Portal of I was one of the best albums of 2012 for me. I am absolutely thrilled to hear this new one and even if its just as good, I know I am in for a ride!

  • Vega Magnus

    Pyrrhic is one of the best songs of the year. I have a question for you, AMG, about production quality. I’m not an audiophile like you, but I do notice production issues when I hear them, but regardless of that, my ears adjust to the shit factor (To quote the Angry Video Game Nerd.) so that over time spent listening, I don’t really notice the bad production as much. (Although even that doesn’t make Fallujah’s new album any more listenable…) Does that happen to you as well, or are you too attuned to listening for production quality that you always hear the problems?

    • El_Cuervo

      Pyrrhic is unbelievable.

    • For me this isn’t so much “bad” production in terms of the execution of the production (DR8 is pretty good mastering job, too!). It’s more about bad in terms of choices. It sounds very much like lots of different modern metal. And it’s a sound I personally just dislike.

  • lacsativ

    Been stalking this band for a while. I think it’s time to give it a go.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I’m chomping at the bit for the primordial and ATG reviews…

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      What. there’s a Primordial record out?! Holy hell, how did I not know that?

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Dude, start getting excited!
        I think its being released any day now…

  • Our Fortress Is Burning

    You can guess, from the album cover and the band photo, that these guys are about to unload a truckload of wankery. And that’s pretty much what they do once you hit play as well. Great and talented musicians, and yet terrible songwriters. This album is overproduced too. And I’m not a fan of the vocalist.

    • tomasjacobi

      Well put. This is exactly how I feel about both this album and the band.

      • Our Fortress Is Burning

        Thank-you.

  • D3Seeker

    The clean vocals have improved! OMG :D and that violin is just boss. Besides that, while staying interesting it’s definitely got the ‘focused and refined’ vibe that just nags. hmmm

  • Tarık Ay

    Why was my comment deleted? Was it because I said “ass”? What’s wrong with that word? Or did I “unintenionally” expressed my own opinion and hurt someone’s feelings?