Ne Obliviscaris (NeO) burst into the international metal scene in 2012 with their progressive take on black metal on their debut, Portal of I. The fusion of the aggression of black metal with the melancholy of the violins, and emotional clean vocals made for a perfect listen on a cold, depressing night. 2014’s Citadel took this progressive aspect even further, as the band seemed to focus more on the melodic side of their songwriting.
The band returns this year with their third full length Urn. They say that the third time’s a charm, and the pressure’s on for NeO to release something far better than the previous two masterpieces.
Building on the style that they have popularised over the last 5 years, Urn has an increased inclusion of elements from genres such as Flamenco and jazz making it an extremely compelling listen to those tired of the rinse-and-repeat black/extreme metal formulae. This isn’t to say that the band has turned their backs on the black metal foundation that they build their unique style on, as Urn also contains some of the heaviest, bleakest passages in their discography.
This results in an album that takes the listener through a rollercoaster of emotions. For instance, the band first puts out a full on assault on opener Libera (Part 1) – Saturnine Spheres with furious black metal riffs before giving some semblance of hope with Libera (Part 2) – Ascent of Burning Moths. The songwriting mastery is also evident, on tracks like Eyrie where they seamlessly transit from an almost Dream Theater-like dream state to a dark, oppressive mood. Often, the band dangles a carrot of hope, only to cruelly, albeit masterfully, take it away from the listener.
As per past NeO releases, the band has once again upped their production game on Urn, being a clean and precise record. Quieter moments on the album on tracks like Libera (Part 2) and Eyrie are excellent showcases of this. Urn (Part I) – And within the Void We are Breathless manages to make the bass sound so massive and overwhelming that, true to its name, leaves the listener rather breathless.
The third full length release of a band often makes or breaks their musical career, and defines their identity. Urn may not be a revolutionary album in NeO‘s discography, but it is one that is evolutionary. Those already familiar with the band’s work would be delighted to listen to the growth of the band as songwriters and musicians, while newcomers should prepare to be blown away by what could be summed up as a unique, progressive/extreme metal experience.
Favourite tracks: Eyrie
Gear used: Calyx 24/192 > Shanling PH 300 > Audeze LCD-2