Ne Obliviscaris – Exul (Season of Mist)

Friday, 31st March 2023
Rating: 9 / 10

The pandemic is a time we’d all like to put in the rear view mirror. Our lives were turned upside down as we ventured into the unknown. A lot of people showed who they really are – for better and for worse, sadly – and we lost many close to us. For artists, it was an incredibly scary journey, with many threats to their art coming from all directions. Ne Obliviscaris were one such band who were impacted hard, with personal loss and multiple uncontrollable delays significantly pushing back their much anticipated fourth full-length. Add in the departure of drummer Dan Presland (who still appears on this album, as his parts were recorded before exiting), and it amounts to a lot of unforeseen change. Thankfully, the band have booked a sizable tour this year, and have reached the finish line for releasing their latest full-length Exul.

For the uninitiated, or if the rock one has been living under is soundproof, most reading this website have some inkling of who Ne Obliviscaris are. Their unmistakable style of violin-driven progressive black/death/extreme metal is one to behold, with elaborate compositions being commonplace. Exploding onto the scene with Portal of I in 2012, these Aussies put out a debut that almost every band can only dream of. Since, they’ve put out two incredibly strong efforts in Citadel and Urn. Ne Obliviscaris have a defined and eclectic composition style, and in turn have further refined that approach with verve and an uptick in harmonious melody on Exul.

Lead single and opening track “Equus” begins our journey with a plucky bass line, quickly being joined by crunchy guitar rhythms and Tim Charles’ trademark soaring violin action. Straight away, there’s a melancholic quality in the violin tone and the emotiveness in Charles’ clean vocal delivery. The manner that the clean and harsh vocals (via growler extraordinaire Xenoyr) are seamlessly layered also add depth and dimension to an already varied entry. The song weaves through its over 12 minute run time with quick blasts of energy balanced by moments of sadness and beauty, hitting all the right notes.

A mammoth two part song begins with “Misericorde I – As the Flesh Falls”; commencing with immense guitar riffs fused with funk-inspired bass lines that slowly build noticeable tension. Profound guitar interplay between Matt Klavins and Benjamin Baret is a highlight, trading off delightful licks and defined leads equating to a true masterclass. Second half “Misericorde II – Anatomy of Quiescence” is decidedly somber, lush with weeping violins accompanied by soft piano keys putting forth a sense of foreboding. Sharpened rhythm guitars and a nasty bass piece (Martino Garattoni is a wizard) methodically add a twist, elevating the tempo as the track progresses into a searing crescendo. “Suspyre” pursues an upbeat vibe, quickly morphing from acoustic guitars into blackened death metal strums, along with Xenoyr displaying a contrasting snarl amongst many differentiating intonations. Charles’ violin work goes into overdrive on “Graal,” boisterously setting up a punchy in your face gallop. A gorgeous piano driven outro in “Anhedonia” is a grand finish, boasting some of Charles’ most soulful clean vocals on Exul.

Ne Obliviscaris have again delivered what they know best – a smorgasbord of influences in an extreme progressive metal wrapper that tingles the senses. That said, if one isn’t on board with the band’s now well-known approach, this album won’t be winning those folks over with anything radically different. To those who enjoy Ne Obliviscaris, take in the sights and enjoy an imaginative musical ride bolstered by stunning instrumentation. Exul possesses the most heartfelt and melodic songwriting that the band has exuded since Portal of I, without losing a drop of abrasive relentlessness.

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