The Omega Experiment

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: Distorted Harmony – Chain Reaction

Location: Ramat HaSharon, Israel
Genre: Modern Progressive Metal
Released: July 9, 2014
Format Reviewed: mp3 (320 kbps)
Feature: Global Conquest – Upcoming Releases

Whenever I see a genre description of “modern progressive metal,” I tend to believe that what I’m about to hear turns into a bastardization of djent, which is already a bastardization of prog metal in and of itself. Luckily, my preconceptions were quickly proven wrong. In a nutshell, the sophomore effort from Distorted Harmony compares favorably to the likes of The Omega Experiment and Skyharbor. 

Chain Reaction is full of variety and contains many standout moments. “Every Time She Smiles” and “Children Of Red,” the first two tracks, are among the best. The former contains a great melody that develops from a calm guitar-oriented intro, and has more riffs than I can describe in this space. The instrumental section before the first verse, as well as a keyboard break midway through, are stellar, and the chorus is, for lack of a better phrase and meant to be taken positively, highly catchy.

“Children Of Red” is a more aggressive track with monotonous vocals that work well with both the lyrics and the song’s overall sound. There are two samples, at least one of which is taken from the Communist Manifesto. Following the second sample comes the heaviest section of the album:

Fuck you and your sick ideology/
So wrong are your words of hypocrisy/
Taken a dream augmented reality/
For red is the colour of blood.

What follows is a fantastic riff, one of the best on the album, and then it takes an uplifting turn towards the end. The other track I consider to be among the elites on here is “Hollow,” with no relation whatsoever to the Pantera or Alice In Chains songs of the same name. Following a 45-second calm intro, it builds from there and contains a stellar guitar solo, the best on the album.

Out of the other tracks, the only one I can criticize with a negative lens is “Misguided,” which is too long for its own good and meanders off course. Nonetheless, it is still full of solid moments, with a short bass fill toward the end particularly standing out. Most of the following songs start rather slowly but pay off nicely in the end; “Nothing (But The Rain)” is a nice interlude that is unique in the sense that it builds up gradually. “As You Go” reminds me of “Where We Belong” by Devin Townsend; “As One” sounds like something from fellow Israeli prog metallers Orphaned Land that gets better as it goes along; and “Natural Selection” is also memorable for its ending, which starts with the final chorus. Album closer “Methylene Blue,” while being just a decent song, resembles the sound of Tool or A Perfect Circle and contains a brief but well-crafted guitar solo.

As a whole, Chain Reaction is a cohesive effort with well-written lyrics, solid production, and some excellent vocals. The touches of industrial effects and keyboards provide additional variety without dominating the overall sound of the record, a problem frequently seen in most modern progressive metal albums. The drumming, in particular, stands out for its technical prowess without controlling the album’s sound to such a degree that it would be considered unbalanced.

Overall: This album should put Distorted Harmony on the global landscape for modern prog metal bands. “Children Of Red” especially stands out as a must-listen.

Rating: 4.0*

00_Chain Reaction - Cover