Some parts black metal, most parts symphonic rock, and overall beautifully narrative in nature, the debut full-length studio album from Australia’s underground favourites Ne Obliviscaris is finally released and lives up to the pre-release hype surrounding it. Apart from the plausible Opeth reference in this band’s heavy emphasis on the design of the alphabet ‘O’ in their logo, the next thing that stands out most is their Matrix-ish acronym, NeO. Unlike Keanu Reeves’ stiff-faced “Neo” however, the NeO we have here very obviously have feelings and musical facial muscles with which to display them. Sweet, sweeeeet melancholy will drip all over your head and seep into your skull through all seven facial orifices to induce 700% brain-gasm as you immerse yourself in the music’s exquisite sorrow, and you’ll have to constantly remind yourself that the excellent gentlemen behind such a feat are still independent and lack support from any major extreme metal labels [that was a ridiculously long and inappropriately sexual sentence! – AMG]. One thing NeO could have picked up from Neo, though, is the hippie art of plastering shades to their eyes regardless of whether the Sun is out in the sky. Then all that’s left is for each band member to snarl like Agent Smith and show off their sparkling white teeth, and the band will have a much more interesting band photo.
Xenoyr’s frequently drawn-out growls go exceptionally well with Tim Charles’ sobbing violin (and at other times, Charles’ clean singing, like in the middle section of “Of The Leper Butterflies”), and the resulting mental image of an anguished face with tears streaking down its bruised cheeks will connect with the lonely inner self on a molecular level. Charles’ skill with his violin is evident from how versatile he can be, switching from melancholic melodies to slightly more upbeat ones (as heard in the first 1/5 of “And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope”) every now and then. He does more than just providing the “symphonic” in “symphonic rock” by actually displaying Classical violin skills with his fluid, scalar solos and consistent, technically proficient accompaniment during his non-solo moments—a trait rarely found in your everyday violinist in your everyday symphonic-something-wannabe band. The talented violinist doesn’t just stop there too, for he performs the role of clean vocalist as well, and does an excellent job at balancing out Xenoyr’s harsh vocals, resulting in a limited, but appropriate variety of vocal types to keep things interesting.
Harsh vocalist and clean-vocalist-cum-violinist aside, every other band member feels utterly vital as well. Be it Nelson Barnes’ captivating drumroll which kicks off the introductory track of “Tapestry Of The Starless Abstract”, Brendan “Cygnus” Brown’s prominent and “vocal” bass guitar line (as it should be in progressive metal), or Benjamin Baret and Matt Klavin’s brooding, mid-paced guitar solos, the overall musical arrangement of how each instrumental part communicates with the rest is intricately done while maintaining an ultimately musically-pleasing and fresh sound. A most excellent songwriting effort to say the least.
As you would probably expect from a progressive band that utilizes a lyrical violin musical line throughout, the music’s lyrics are typical nice-to-read poetry that makes you think you know less and less about the band’s real intentions behind spouting such profound literary expressions the more you read them—Socrates all over again here! Don’t you just love this whole philosophical hogwash of implying that knowledge becomes increasingly useless the more you attain it,when it is in the nature of knowledge itself to grant its beholders the desire to pursue more of it once they have had a taste of it? But yes, sarcasm intended or not, it is precisely for the love of such philosophical hogwash that one can blissfully and ignorantly appreciate such poetry without having to really care what the true intention(s) of the band’s lyricist(s) was/were, and just enjoy the fleeting flashes of surreal imagery that hop to mind as the power of the words are enhanced by the music. Coupled with the mystic and dark nature of Ne Obliviscaris’ music, the fantasy/sci-fi theme of the band’s lyrics creates an imaginary world quite unlike tame franchises such as Star Wars and John Carter, but something more akin to the modernly grim universe of Marvel’s Ultimate Thor.
If I really had to nitpick at something, it would be the dull interior layout design for the contents of the lyrics booklet (just plain black all the way with one band photo appearing exactly in the middle), and the extremely-hard-to-read text right at the end of it which sees the band thanking people and stuff (it feels too crammed on top of the fact that the text is puny and hard-to-read too… guys, don’t be so nice to everyone!). The front cover art may be beautifully enigmatic and in line with the poetically sci-fi nature of Ne Obliviscaris’ music and lyrics, and so is the possibly Opeth-inspired ‘O’ featured on the back cover which is made to look like the Moon on a light red night sky as well; but more effort could have been made for the visual design inside too. Nobody would like to bite into a tasty-looking apple with a caterpillar hidden within its moist flesh! [seriously dude, spend less time on the “adult” websites – AMG]