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Album Reviews : Ne Obliviscaris – Urn

By on November 7, 2017

There are a few different ways a discerning metal fan might go about assessing Ne Obliviscaris’ latest and long-awaited full-length release, Urn. We could approach it with caution as one of those who’ve shelled out to the hand of Patreon, eager to see if keeping the band on the road long enough to make another album was worth it. Then there are those who litter the internet with the insistence that NeO are the undisputed Gods of all tunes extreme – but there’s a good chance those guys and girls are too busy pleasuring themselves to Urn to read my review.

What about the rest of us? What’s in it for us? Death/doom pedallers have been mixing meaty metal with melodic violin ever since way-back-when My Dying Bride turned loose their swans in the 90s. It’s nothing new. However, as with any music at which we might throw the label “progressive”, there has been something of an evolution. Does Ne Obliviscaris do it better than most? The only logical answer to that question is a simple “yes”. Or perhaps a positive 46-page dossier compiled by one of those guys or girls we mentioned earlier – if they can take their hand off it long enough, that is.

For the uninitiated, NeO takes a hearty dose of black metal/death metal blast beats and uses them to either drive home the urgency of the heavier parts or underpin the melody of the quieter parts. Xenoyr’s harsh vocals are commanding and all instrumental wizardry is ahead of the pack. The rest of the time is devoted to acoustic guitar and the violin and clean singing of Tim Charles.

Those familiar with 2014’s ARIA charting Citadel and their somewhat game-changing debut of 2012, Portal of I, might be in interested to know if the band has progressed or if they’ve stuck to their formula. The answer lies in both columns A and B.

While Charles’ violin is as emotive as ever, it also takes on a bit more of an attacking role in certain parts and appears less afraid of getting ugly and dirty. This is most certainly a good thing. Reference track five “Urn (Part I) And Within the Void We Are Breathless” for an example. Can a violin be brutal?

On the flipside, I’m hearing a band that doesn’t quite carry the urgency and impact of earlier releases. I’m most certainly not suggesting that NeO are no longer worthy of a listen. The songwriting and skill are, in parts, extraordinary. However, there are elements that we’ve heard before, only better executed. Xenoyr’s growled vocals, for example, simply do their job rather than stir any great emotion. The band themselves are never bad but nor are they so good that the uninitiated are compelled to take notice, like they may have with the band’s previous two albums.

According to my ear, it’s the beauty and occasional aforementioned beast of Charles’ violin and vocals which make this record worth spinning repeatedly. The chorus to “Intra Venus” will attach itself to your brain for the whole day whether you like it or not. Without Charles’ seamless delivery of both voice and violin, track four “Eyrie”, definitely loses its epic best-track-on-the-album status.

Urn is, of course, executed more professionally and expertly than most releases you’ll come across this year, but if you’re looking for metal rather than melody, your search may best continue elsewhere.

Q&A time; Is it beautiful? Yes. Is it brutal? Sort of. Is it worth a listen? Most definitely. Will the Ne Obluminati be happy? Yeah, probably.

Band: Ne Obliviscaris
Album: Urn
Year: 2017
Genre: Extreme Metal
Label:  Season of Mist
Origin: Australia