ALBUM REVIEW: Ne Obliviscaris – ‘Exul’

Artwork for Ne Obliviscaris’ ‘Exul’ - a knight standing in front of a battle scene where angels are fighting

Ne Obliviscaris faced their own share of trials and tribulations during the creation of their new album Exul. Following their 2017 offering Urn, the extreme progressive outfit dealt with a challenging remote recording ordeal and drummer Daniel Presland’s decision to leave the band in early 2022. And yet, Ne Obliviscaris has emerged out of all of this with an incredible album in Exul, arguably the band’s best record to date.  

The Australian band have a distinctive sound that derives from an amalgamation of extreme metal, black-metal and prominent violin parts, along with powerful clean and harsh vocals, all entwined in progressive compositions with tracks easily reaching upwards of ten minutes or more. Kicking off proceedings is the 12-plus minute opener Equus. This track aptly introduces the mood of the album and makes it immediately apparent that this release is a milestone in their career in terms of composition, performance and production. Technical guitars bring a dynamic high level of musicality with prominent bass and powerful percussion creating a heavy sound, heavier than previous releases. Ne Obliviscaris’ distinctive lead violin—performed by frontman Tim Charles—and orchestral parts add an element of grandeur and an ethereal edge. The track ebbs and flows between the dark and heavy and lighter, cleaner sections seeing more acoustic clean tones emerge. It’s not long of course before the thundering instrumentation returns. The intensity is augmented through speed and unrelenting rhythms. Seeing flowing soundscapes accompanied by both monstrous harsh vocals from Xenoyr and soaring cleans from Charles again reinforces the balance of opposites in their music.

Misericorde I – As the Flesh Falls delves into the progressive with a more prog orientated riff and non-standard time signature. There’s an eerie edge with creepy melodies that looms above. The violin playing style includes more abrasive screeches and dissonant notes enhancing this haunting atmosphere. Flavours of other genres, outside the realms of metal, make unexpected but not unwanted appearances. Jazzy acoustic guitar chords with strings make for an intriguing musical digression.

A mournful character emerges from Misericorde II – Anatomy Of Quiescence, with the violin taking the lead while the piano introduces rich and yet sombre tones. Instrumental layers develop gradually enhancing the sound throughout the track. Blues influences bleed through the interesting arrangement that sees heaviness restrained for a significant portion of the song and when it is introduced, the full ensemble produces a wall of sound. Strings soar above and movement in the percussion, notably movement around the toms, changes the direction of the track’s energy. On a first listen, Misericorde II – Anatomy Of Quiescence gives the impression that it’s an instrumental piece; it’s not until the final segment that both harsh and then cleans kick in. It makes sense taking into account the development and metamorphosis of the song as it builds to this point; however, it is somewhat unexpected.

Low rumbling tones and a gloomy nature arise from Suspyre. Dark and rhythmic, it catches your attention, bringing a more ferocious and technical feel. Bass takes the wheel, and a hard-hitting breakdown is an epic addition. Returning acoustic guitar with a more classical playing style again sees further influences drawn into the mix. Thundering metal and screeching strings manifest the discordant undertone that runs throughout the album. Graal commences with more recognisable prog elements present. Blues-esque bass sections, contrapuntal guitar melodies and widespread instrumental textures fuse to make a wall of sound. The metal composition punches through with Daniel Presland’s inhuman double bass drum kicks running throughout a lengthy section. It’s intense with a heightened impact, then concluding with a lighter arrangement. Perhaps surprisingly, Anhedonia is under four minutes in length. Functioning as a concluding outro, uncanny and compelling, clean tones and strong piano chords and delicate violin, Tim’s soaring vocal melody takes focus. It’s calming and yet ominous.  

The offering from Ne Obliviscaris is a powerful one. Exul carries emotion across every instrument and vocal in every track, and there is a sophistication and beauty woven across the release. Ne Obliviscaris showcases their prowess with each composition and their execution of them.  

For fans of: Ihsahn, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Leprous

‘Exul’ by Ne Obliviscaris is out now on Seasons Of Mist.

Words by Holly Royle

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