Progressive Death Metal

Live Show Review: Ne Obliviscaris

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Venue: O’Shecky’s LIVE
Date: February 6, 2016

Ticket cost: $10/$12 door

By: Kris Kotlarik

This show represented a number of firsts for me. The most important of those firsts, by a wide margin, was seeing Ne Obliviscaris live. Following their release of Citadel, anticipation was at a fever pitch, so my reaction to them performing a 90-minute set in my city included a dropped jaw followed by a bunch of overly excited obscenities.

This is also the first time I have ever been to O’Shecky’s, a relatively small venue off the highway on the north side of Columbus. After last night’s show, I have mixed feelings about the venue; I was tempted to deduct a half a point from each band because all of them had to deal with crackling vocal mics (and I believe Ne Obliviscaris was also having a crackling snare mic, in addition to the drummer constantly asking for lighting). But beverage prices are very reasonable, and they have two stages that otherwise sounded great and expedited tonight’s five-band lineup.

As always, I’ll be going down the line from the opening band to the headliner to discuss their performances. Let’s begin!
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Kyrmzon (Mansfield, Ohio)
Rating: 2.0*

This being my first exposure to Krymzon, I didn’t come away from this show with a particularly favorable (or unfavorable) impression of them. Their blend of thrash and death metal wore me out fairly quickly, due in large part to vocalist Ron Wise’s constant screaming and the band’s gratuitous use of breakdowns towards the end of their set. Wise was constantly urging the crowd to come closer and to fuck shit up with little to no success. Also, Ryan Arter was remarkably stoic for a man laying down some heavy blast beats on the drums; he would go several minutes at a time without changing his facial expression, which appeared to look like either boredom or annoyance (my guess between the two options is the latter given the occasional technical difficulties, although for all I know, that’s just his game face).

That’s not to say that I hated their performance; Wise, along with guitarist Joey VanDine and bassist Adam Anderson, all played with a lot of energy. Perhaps Krymzon just isn’t my style. And that’s okay.

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Others By No One (Dayton, Ohio)
Rating: 3.5*

These guys surprised me. This is a very young progressive metal band with touches of avant-garde (and the occasional splash of Maximum The Hormone). Just about the only technical flaw I can point out in their performance came from lead vocalist Max Mobarry, who frequently sang away from the microphone and was occasionally inaudible as a result.

With that out of the way…wow. I can’t think of any other opening act, save for some droning black metal band or something like that, to play a 15+ minute song when they are allotted just 30 minutes. That kind of behavior has the potential to piss off approximately 90% of the audience. It only makes sense, then, that Others By No One is undoubtedly influenced by Devin Townsend (as evidenced by drummer Sam Ruff wearing a Z2 shirt). The opening lick of that marathon track featured a riff that was eerily similar to the melodic part of Devin’s “Color Your World” (or the title track of Ki, if you prefer that album). Later on, they slowed down the track so that Mobarry could sing the lyrics “let’s go down to the beach,” similar to “Two Weeks” by Strapping Young Lad or “Disruptr” from Ki.

The most unique attribute about this band, however, is that this is not just a Devin Townsend worship band (that already exists in the form of The Omega Experiment); they played “Gravity of the Bulls,” a track that has elements of modern hardcore. Their music also contents elements from other prog acts like Animals As Leaders or Scale The Summit. As an added bonus, there is no question that out of all the bands that were playing tonight, Others By No One was having the most fun. Bassist Quique Bocio, in particular, reminded me of the performance For The Imperium put on at the 2012 Finnish Metal Meeting; he was all over the place and jumping around the stage as if nobody was watching, and that was extremely fun to watch.

Make no mistake: Others By No One is still raw to the bone, but they are dripping with potential and will make Ohio proud in short order. Please bring merch the next time you come here.

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The Conquering (Columbus, Ohio)
Rating: 3.0*

I’ve seen The Conquering more than enough times to know that their brand of black metal will most likely never appeal to me. But this performance was immensely better than the last time I saw them perform; they got their drummer back after he was forced to ride the pine due to a fractured foot, and the band was markedly better as a result. Plus, Dan Rivera is still rocking that big jug of water in addition to his bass. Needless to say, their chemistry is back.

Completely unrelated to the music of this band, Christopher Wiford on the vocals is starting to pull off the Devin Townsend skullet circa 2004. My advice? Keep it.

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Mithridium (Columbus, Ohio)
Rating: 2.5*

Like The Conquering, I’ve seen Mithridium a number of times opening for other touring acts. They’ve got a fun deathrash style that makes for solid entertainment, although arguably the most entertaining aspect of this band’s performance was the band’s banter with the sound guy. Out of these first four bands, there is little question that Mithridium was the most polished group. They put on a good performance, albeit not necessarily one that stands out on a nightly basis.

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Ne Obliviscaris (Melbourne, Australia)
Rating: 4.5*

My advice for anyone seeing another show at O’Shecky’s would be to get to about the third row. I started off right up in front and quickly took note of just how engaging all six members of Ne Obliviscaris is with the audience, but from up front I couldn’t hear the violin worth salt and the guitars were virtually buried. So I had to move back a little bit and the sound quality was significantly better, and I didn’t miss any of the band’s craziness. Of course, I got greedy, grabbed a chair, and parked it right next to the sound booth for the rest of the show. What I got was exactly what I wanted: One thousand ounces of pure audio gold.

It will never cease to amaze me how talented this progressive death metal group is. Tim Charles is a wizard on the violin and even jumped off the stage to get better acquainted with the crowd while playing. Xenoyr’s growled vocals were relentless through the duration of the set, and Daniel Presland was an absolute monster on the drums. But this review isn’t about individual performances; this is about a band coming all the way from Australia to play in a bar with a maximum capacity of 400 people and playing as if they were back at home playing at the Soundwave Festival (rest in peace, Soundwave!).

The fact that they were able to put together an 80-minute set with just two full albums, and only for a handful of headlining shows, is a stunning feat. They also stayed after the show to talk to fans without dealing with any VIP nonsense. It’s quite clear that not only is Ne Obliviscaris passionate about their music; they also take great pride in their fans. This ranks just behind Devin Townsend’s 2011 show at the House of Rock in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on the list of best small-venue shows I have ever seen.

Ne Obliviscaris is easily among the best modern metal bands going today and they were overdue for some recognition in the United States. With any luck, we will be seeing a lot more of them in the future.

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Review: Stone Circle – Stone Circle

Location: Brighton, England
Genre: Progressive/Melodic Death Metal
Released: December 7, 2014
Format Reviewed: .WAV (1411 kbps)
Feature: Global Conquest (recent releases)

By: Kris Kotlarik

One of the easiest ways to win me over on a critique for a metal album is to include a variety of instrumental passages in many different styles while maintaining a cohesive sound throughout. Stone Circle achieves this in spades. This is a record that has only seven songs, but averages a shade over eight minutes per track. That kind of time frame gives the band a lot of opportunities to create a unique sound for themselves, and they succeed.

I was rather puzzled by the first few minutes of opener “Beekeeper” to the point where I thought I was in for a rather unpleasant experience. Including the sound of buzzing bees is all well and good, but it doesn’t do much to contribute to the track’s atmosphere. The next two minutes or so also feels a bit uninspired to me. But after that is when I started becoming really engaged; a three-minute buildup that sounds like it could have come from Pelican or Intronaut explodes into a Gojira riff with some extremely harsh growling. From here on out, this album is excellent.

“Easter Island” is the best all-around track here. It begins with an airy introduction before building into a solid melodeath tune. The solo at the 5:00 mark is nice and effective, and the ending does a solid job of building up once again into an increasingly aggressive instrumental. The other tracks are generally good and have some standout moments; “Sentinel” is especially memorable for a bridge riff at around 3:00 and its soothing melodies towards the end. “Chains” has a powerful clean vocal-driven chorus. There is a kickass bass breakdown in “Mary Celeste” that is worth checking out.

While “God Shaped Hole” is not one of the stronger songs here, there’s a 40-second section starting at 5:00 that is impressively strong and heavy. The transition to that section might be even better. The closer, “Final Thought,” is mostly memorable for its long, proggy and mellow introduction, perhaps the most poignant example of this band’s capability to write with both finesse and aggression.

The production on this record fits really well with the band’s sound, and the bass frequently stands out in the mix. I consider this group, that formed in 2004, to be on the rise.

Overall: One of the more diverse metal offerings of 2014, and a good one at that.

Rating: 4.0*

Review: Beyond Creation – Earthborn Evolution

Location: Montreal, Canada
Genre: Progressive/Technical Death Metal
Released: October 24, 2014
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Upcoming Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

Beyond Creation‘s first album was met with mixed reviews (69%) on metal-archives. Some hailed it as a masterpiece in the tech-death subgenre, while others roasted it and said it “almost completely sucks.” Admittedly, I’m not overly familiar with their first album; a glossary listen points to it being rather similar to their second effort, Earthborn Evolution.

What we have here is some Hour Of Penance vocals mixed with Gorguts bass lines, and occasional chuggity riffs that could have just as easily been written by anyone else. On the bright side, there is quite a bit of variety in these tracks, and since I specifically named Gorguts as a primary influence in their bass sound, that is going to factor in favorably in the rating. The bass shows up all over the place in pleasant doses that get your attention.

Unfortunately, the vocals, which are one of the main reasons I do not care for Hour Of Penance, also hinder my impression of this group. But what also bothers me here is the drums, which are played so in such a robotic way that it could almost be mistaken for a drum machine. I have no doubt that this group’s drummer is excellent at his craft, but I can’t get into this the way I get into other groups with massively technical drummers, such as those from Fleshgod Apocalypse or Gorguts, or Hazardeurbecause the sound is significantly less dynamic here.

As for what my favorite tracks are on this album, I can’t begin to break most of them down because these ten tracks all feel like extensions of each other with minimal separation between them. Much like the drumming, the songwriting is almost completely robotic. The one track that stands out in a positive way is “Theatrical Delirium,” which shows signs of dynamic awareness and contains some ridiculous bass licks that should make any enthusiast of the instrument smile. In fact, this might be a candidate for a prospective song of the year list. But it doesn’t make up for the rest of this effort.

Overall: The better groups from this genre are capable of putting a wide dynamic range into their sound while still being “brutal.” Earthborn Evolution lacks this element.

Rating: 2.0*