Album Reviews : Ne Obliviscaris – Portal Of I
What is it that makes a truly great album? Is it pounding riffs and driving drum lines? Is it soft melodies and strong dynamics? Is it powerful vocals and intelligent lyrics? Is it strength in diversity and composition?
The answer is no. While each of these vicissitudinous elements is fleetingly important (and of course seasoned to taste) they are not at the heart of this issue. What makes a truly great album, an album that you will never forget, an album that you will keep coming back to regardless of mood or temperament is feeling. It is the feeling that music is able to inject into its listener that has been the source of hairbrushes turning into microphones, thin air turning into guitars and metal crowds turning into headbanging, swirling pools of madness for as long as such things have been possible. It is this same feeling that makes Ne Obliviscaris something else.
Portal of I is absolutely intense from start to finish. Every moment of the album is engineered to grab the listener and just not let go. This is not music that will simply hold your attention- it is music that will completely enthral you, hold you in stunned rapture, for its entire 72 minutes, not letting go for even a second. The album is astoundingly diverse, yet no matter what the dynamic level is at any given moment, it is completely captivating. Whether it is the flamenco-style grooves swinging at the start of “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope”, the classical guitar and violin dancing together, constantly building over the course of 6+ minutes to form a majestic, melodic introduction to “Forget Not”, the unbelievably tight Gojira-style drumming pounding incessantly behind the strings or the gigantic Opeth-style walls of chords that will simply take your breath away, everything is constructed to be nothing short of heart-stopping. The constant interplay between these styles only serves to emphasise the energy pouring out of the songs.
If you thought the vocal performance on the band’s 2007 demo The Aurora Veil was impressive then Xenoyr and Tim Charles will completely blow you away on Portal of I. Xenoyr’s black metal hissing shrieks have improved dramatically from the demo (and this is coming from a reviewer that is not even a huge fan of black metal) and his overall range has expanded to also include a massive death metal roar that is used just as often and perfectly matches the intensity of the rest of the music. Tim Charles’ clean voice has reached unnerving levels of beauty- whether he is singing on his own or dancing a dynamic duet with Xenoyr, Charles’ haunting voice will send shivers down your spine. The album’s conclusion in particular is particularly profound, featuring only Charles’ voice dancing beautifully, hauntingly, over a very soft guitar line before gradually building the number of voices and incorporating a violin line to end the piece on a note as grandiose as the album deserves.
I have never given a perfect score before, and indeed I rarely give anything even close. To describe an album as perfect is to say ‘this album is faultless, I can find no flaw, no place to improve upon the quality of the sound, the composition or the style’, a truly rare thing to say of even the very best albums. But perfection is more than the absence of flaws, it is also about possessing that intangible something else, that extra little bit that pushes it from something you love listening to something that you cannot imagine now being absent from your life. The perfect album is something that will pick you up and take you somewhere else, the album against which all others much be compared only to inevitably fall short. With all that said, this decision was never in question.
It ends with a whisper, a murmur into infinity… 10/10
Band: Ne Obliviscaris
Album: Portal of I
Genre: Progressive Metal
Origin: Melbourne, Australia
Label: Welkin Records (Australia), Code666 (International)
1. Tapestry of the Starless Abstract
3. Of the Leper Butterflies
4. Forget Not
5. And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope
6. As Icicles Fall
7. Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise