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Album of the Month: Ne Obliviscaris – ‘Portal of I’

27 February, 2013

It’s been far, far too long since I’ve done an album of the month (which rather defeats the point of calling it ‘album of the month’, but never mind), so I thought it was time to remedy that. I’ve covered all sorts of genres in the past, but today I want to return to my first and most enduring love: metal.

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Metal is, I have to admit, one of those genres that seems to be constantly circling itself. New bands emerge, even new sub-genres emerge, but nothing ever seems to change very much (not helped by the fact that individual bands can produce pretty much the same album every year for two decades, and still sell out their tours to legions of fans). As a result, although I’m constantly on the look-out for new bands, it’s not often a début album emerges that really impresses me. When it does, it’s time to take notice, which is why ‘Portal of I’ is my album for this month.

At its core, ‘Portal of I’ would probably be classed as progressive death metal, which is an unwieldy title but does fit. There are the blasting drums, chugging guitars and growled vocals of typical black metal, all usually at a pretty swift tempo – it’s the black metal aspect of the album that initially drew me in. However, there’s a lot more to discover here, and that’s where this album gets progressive, and interesting.

Metal bands incorporating other elements into their music is nothing new, but it’s been a while since I’ve heard a black metal band do it so skilfully. There are some beautifully mellow interludes in several of the songs, as well as haunting violins more reminiscent of a gothic doom band (which remind me strongly of the long defunct The Sins of Thy Beloved).

So, we’ve got violins, mellowness, occasional clean vocals – and we’ve also got black metal blast-beats. The true skill in ‘Portal of I’ is how well all these disparate elements are melded into a single album. They never feel forced, or contrived, but instead give the frequently 10+ minute songs interesting structures and some beautiful, unexpected touches.

On the strength of this single album – their début, remember – Ne Obliviscaris are definitely a band to watch. Their song titles might be a tad pretentious (‘Tapestry of the Starless Abstract’ and ‘Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise’ anyone?), but they’ve got the musical skills and song-writing abilities to back them up, and give the feeling you’re listening to a much older and more accomplished band.

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