ATF Review: Ne Obliviscaris – Citadel

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Genre: Progressive Extreme Metal
Released: November 7, 2014
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: All-Time Favorites

By: Kris Kotlarik

I don’t normally declare new releases to be among the all-time greats. If I am not mistaken, the most recent all-time favorite I have reviewed to this point was released on March 1, 2013. The greatness of most albums can take a multitude of listens to sink in; after all, it took me several years to actively get into Devin Townsend after first hearing him on Ayreon’s The Human Equation. After three listens, however, I have realized that no album I have reviewed that was released this year has broken as much ground as Ne Obliviscaris’ sophomore effort has managed to achieve.

I can only make three comparisons that would describe this band’s sound, and the Australians outshine all of them at what they do. First, there’s Edge Of Sanity‘s Crimson, a 40-minute death metal experience. The two albums share a common feel of cohesiveness while feeling like one big, grandiose song (Crimson, in this case, is exactly that). Citadel begins with a three-movement piece called “Painters of the Tempest.” The only part of this album where there is a break in the action is between the end of “Painters of the Tempest” and “Pyrrhic,” and by that time, you’re already 23 minutes into the album. There were some breaks in Crimson that felt forced despite its one-song label; the flow on Citadel is much more natural.

In an interview with the ever-so-ironically named No Clean Singing, Tim Charles pointed out that their debut full-length album, Portal Of I, was “more akin to seven separate stories … this new album, however, was created in a more conceptual way with the music largely flowing continuously from start to finish, and is hence more one unified piece.” I’d say it’s more like two unified pieces, but it feels much more cohesive than Portal Of I. As such, doing a track-by-track review of this album is pointless, and it is also nearly impossible to just pick one track and listen to it. Citadel is an album that requires 48 minutes of your undivided attention. The truly great albums often stand out for that exact reason.

Secondly, I point to Fleshgod Apocalypse‘s use of clean vocals and symphonic elements in their death metal sound. I personally believe the star of Ne Obliviscaris is Charles, who handles clean vocal duties and the violin. In Fleshgod Apocalypse’s albums, these parts are often either overshadowed or outright buried in the mix, which is incredibly noisy. Here, Charles’ vocals shine loud and clear, and there are breaks dedicated to make sure the violin is heard. Looking for some beautiful violin playing? Listen to movement three of “Painters of the Tempest,” called “Reveries From The Stained Glass Womb.” Very few, if any death metal bands have the intuition to put a violin at the forefront in the first place. Then they stripped the metal elements from it, essentially turning it into a classical gem. The last track of “Devour Me, Colossus” also has the violin at the forefront, but sounds more like a haunted house/horror film track. Not that this is a bad thing.

Last but not least, this reminds me of Tesseract’s Altered State, which was released in 2013. That album, a less-extreme progressive metal extravaganza with four separate but very connected pieces, is due to be revisited and reviewed soon, and Citadel not only reminded me of why I appreciate this kind of music; it may have just set the standard going forward.

I have a couple of incredibly minor nitpicks that prevent this album from reaching a 5.0, thereby reaching the top three albums ever. The harsh vocals are a tad monotonous, similar to the likes of Goat The Head. The first movement of “Devour Me, Colossus” is also rather noisy at times, as if everything was turned up to 11, a rare slip-up in this stellar album.

Those two bits and pieces aside, this is the kind of stuff that should be plastered in newspapers throughout the world. Ne Obliviscaris has already shown that they don’t let media/fan criticism dictate the direction of their music with this release. A world tour should give them mass acclaim. I almost think it would be more ideal for them to try and tag along with a much bigger name, especially in the United States, as that might be their gateway to the recognition they deserve. But I’m just a music journalist, not a band manager. Keep doing what you’re doing.

Overall: Not just a mortal lock for best album of the year; this should be considered a contender for the top-ten albums of all-time.

Rating: 4.5*

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