Ne Obliviscaris / Beyond Creation / The Omnific – October 10, 2023 – The Orpheum, Tampa, FLSaturday, 28th October 2023
Photos by: Brittany Barkasi
As mentioned in our review of their latest album Exul, Ne Obliviscaris’ pandemic woes resulted in canceled tours in addition to a hefty delay for said album’s release. Now finally being able to reschedule their missed tours, including a successful European jaunt, the talented Australian’s were finally coming back to North American Shores. However, this tour hasn’t been without its challenges before it began. Support band Persefone sadly had to drop off of the tour, replaced by fellow Aussies The Omnific. More impactful to Ne Obliviscaris themselves was harsh vocalist Xenoyr would be unable to make the tour due to health reasons. This was also the case for the already completed European trek, where Black Crown Initiate’s James Dorton filled in, and this would again be the case for their North American shows. Dorton is a hell of a growler, so he’s a nice get to wear Xen’s very large shoes. Xen’s trademark snarl will be missed very much, however, and we hope he’s on the mend and will be doing better very soon.
This would be yours truly’s fourth time experiencing Ne Obliviscaris live – the first being all the way back in 2015 while supporting Citadel, and they have never once disappointed. Their incredibly eclectic and complex brand of blackened progressive metal isn’t an easy endeavor to present live coherently, yet they’ve always done it, and have made it look deceptively easy in the process. This evening would be no different.
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Replacing Persefone was not going to be easy, with the Andorrans having cultivated a significant following, along with not being an easy band to see in this part of the globe. Adding insult to injury is the departure of their lead vocalist of 19 years Marc Martin’s Pia, so for those who haven’t caught them, this iteration is no more. Stepping up is Melbourne’s The Omnific, who has one of the most unique setups around – a three piece Instrumental act with two bassists and a drummer. These fellows are all about the low end, and an act this unusual was something that piqued sizable interest.
These gents came out swinging with “Antecedent” to show off their extremely high level on instrumentation and panache for atmosphere, with co-bassists Matt Fack and Toby Peterson-Stewart blazing through counter punches of thumping rhythms to the backdrop of light electronics. Their music is at times funky and danceable, while also bringing a weightiness. Drummer Jerome Lematua wasn’t about to be outdone, putting on a groove-filled drum clinic, while also making light of his own flashy mulleted locks. The man wears it loud and proud.
The majority of their set was built from 2021’s Escapades, their debut full-length, notably featuring pieces such as “Wax & Wane” and “Fountainhead.” The band brought a notable energy and seemed to be relishing the moment of being on a big tour with their fellow countrymen, who are definite boosters of the trio. Some folks didn’t know what to expect with their rare stylistic choices, but the majority were enthusiastic and enjoyed their performance. Their kind of music is a bit outside of my already expansive palate, but they did plenty to encourage further listening of their discography, and left a lot of smiling faces after concluding with “Objets de Vertu.”
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For progressive death metal types, Beyond Creation is a familiar name. They’ve been putting forth unique and dizzyingly technical music since 2005, and are well known for their impressive live performances. This time, they were without guitarist Kévin Chartré, who is about to become a dad (if that’s already happened by the time of this publishing, congrats!) leaving founding lead guitarist/vocalist Simon Girard to take on the tour solo. Having never before seen them as a three piece, this would be another first for this evening.
A duo of tracks from their as of now middle album Earthborn Evolution got their slot started in the right direction, with “Fundamental Process” and title track “Earthborn Evolution” reducing the crowd to rubble. Multiple cuts from 2018’s Algorythm followed, including the speedy “Ethereal Kingdom” and the more prog leaning title track, with the latter sounding especially massive. Girard played like a man possessed, which is no surprise to anyone who has experienced Beyond Creation, seemingly effortlessly blazing through their 45 minute set. He did his damndest to make up for the lack of Chartré, and while their twin guitar dynamic was missed, they also didn’t miss a beat. For as precise as their music is, that was a fine accomplishment.
Turning attention to debut album The Aura to finish up, the dizzying “Coexistence” prompted a gentleman who I have since dubbed as the Tampa Banana (pictures under Ne Obliviscaris, for the curious), who was brandishing a cheap banana costume, grooved along with some dance moves, with the crescendo being doing the worm to said song. Sadly, he wasn’t giving out stickers of the same branding, but definitely brought the fun. We’re still partial to the infamous Maryland Chicken Man, who is a staple at Maryland Deathfest, as well as possibly being a permanent resident of Baltimore Soundstage. But enough on unofficial mascots; Beyond Creation was inspired, pummeling through a set that went by quickly, as the audience was invested with every riff and tempo change.
The band signed off with “Omnipresent Perception,” which is a big favorite for this writer, and as evidenced by the crowd reaction, we were in agreement. A powerful and enjoyable set from these Montréal natives, and hopefully next time they’ll be at full strength, though they’re worth the price of admission in any form.
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Now to the main event of Ne Obliviscaris, who have been gaining significant praise for Exul, which may be their best since the landmark Portal of I, though every one of their four albums has been a memorable listening experience. The band had some turnover since we saw them last, most notably the departure of drummer extraordinaire Dan Presland, with Benighted’s Kévin Paradis slotting in for live duties. Couple that with the absence of Xenoyr, and we have a band with a different look, but that wouldn’t affect their ability to enthrall their eager fans. It’s been a minute since their last North American tour, too, and the anticipation of hearing new songs was a key draw.
“Intra Venus” began proceedings with fervor, prompting the crowd to burst at the seams with energy, especially at the first appearance of violinist/clean vocalist Tim Charles. Ever-present as the face of the band, his warm smile and soothing voice is always a welcome sight, and he was on top form on both his magical violin passages and melancholic cleans. Seeing him and the rest of the band outwardly having a blast performing was a wonderful sight, with everything they’ve been through both personally and as a band. A true culmination of struggle and perseverance, and how to emerge on the other side with aplomb.
The wait for new material wasn’t a long one, with the emotive “Equus” being next, boasting smooth transitions between harsh growls and guitar virtuosity to beautiful melancholy, rounding out to be one of the band’s finest compositions. Dorton’s growls were deep and filled the room, with an imposing stage presence to add his own flair. Also, at some point in the set, Dorton managed to bust his forehead open. We’re not sure how, but it was quite a visual, and he definitely channeled his inner Jon Moxley for a moment.
Moving sequentially within Exul was the two-part opus “Misericorde I – As the Flesh Falls” and “Misericorde II – Anatomy of Quiescence.” Totalling together at around 17 minutes, Ne Obliviscaris will never be known for their brevity, and that suits just fine, as their aural tapestries are a metaphysical journey to be experienced. Listening on album is definitely transformative, and so is seeing them live, in a similarly intoxicating but different purview. This two-parter exemplified the magic of the live experience.
To not go out on a limb, Portal of I is a generational album; a piece of utter perfection that doesn’t strike often in one’s lifetime. Naturally, the hope for the inclusion of cuts from that debut was expected, and we got the first in the modern classic “Forget Not.” For those unaware, the band’s name is the Latin equivalent of said title, and this song is an exercise in crushing heaviness and refined songwriting. Charles spoke of the acoustic intro of the song being originally written by former guitarist Corey King for their grandfather’s funeral, with the song specifically being based on death. A mournful piece that reaches the heights of the best progressive music ever written, their performance of it on this occasion was blissful.
A sweet moment occurred when Charles noticed a little girl in the audience, who’s father stated that this was her very first concert. Nothing could wipe the smile off of the band’s collective faces at this moment, as Charles invited her on stage for a heartwarming moment. To the dad, this is a heck of a fine first concert story to look back on, and hope you both created an everlasting memory!
Other highlights include “Devour Me, Colossus (Part I): Blackholes” from sophomore effort Citadel and “Graal” from their latest. The encore was what everyone was hoping for, obviously being the band’s breakout song “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope.” This song was my introduction to the band, along with many others, and a better icing on the cake moment could not be had.
Admirable is the perseverance and dedication to excellence of every band on this tour, with lofty expectations being shattered across the board from all three acts. Seeing a personal favorite in Ne Obliviscaris shattering expectations once again was a marvelous sight to see and hear, as the band’s determined journey forward continues. From the veterans who have been following along for a long time, to those taking in their first experience with Ne Obliviscaris (or live music in general for one special case), it was an evening of celebration with memories created to savor for a very long time. Hopefully it won’t be as much of a gap in between seeing Ne Obliviscaris the next time around, and whenever that time will be, you can bet that we’ll be there.