Despite all the backlash and confusion over their choice to utilize the crowdfunding subscription service Patreon, one listen to Ne Obliviscaris’ excellent third record makes it all clear. The Australian band needed time, and while you can laugh at the notion that they actually bought time through the website, it seems like the choice to give fans a stake in the action and the appreciation of those fans’ attention allowed Ne Obliviscaris the opportunity to really dig deep into what made the band unique and interesting and find the best path forward, without outside distractions and record label pressure. I’m not here to rule on whether bands using Patreon is a great idea, but what’s patently obvious on Urn is that at least one group took absolutely full advantage of the time and resources they were given and released their best and most cohesive work to date.
What does that all mean? Ne Obliviscaris’ sound has worked a unique fusion between neo-classical progressive rock (with violins!) and technical black/death metal. This progressive extreme metal resulted in two impressive records chocked full of blast beats, haunting violin passages, and songs that were occasionally overstuffed and overlong; there were certainly times where the two sides of the band’s sonic coin didn’t quite mesh together well. On Urn, all of that has changed, as this is easily the smoothest and most carefully constructed album of the band’s career so far. Songs are (on average) shorter, more memorable, and this 46-minute opus is the rare prog album that feels like it’s over too quickly (thank God at least one prog band can write a sub-50-minute album!).
This also means that the more extreme aspects of their sound feel a bit rounded off at times. However, when it all clicks, like in the delightful mid-album duo of “Intra Venus” and “Eyrie” (incidentally, the only two one-part songs). The former is the closest the band has ever gotten to a standard verse-chorus formula, and they absolutely nail the execution, with easily the best hook and a whopper of a bridge. “Eyrie” is a serene and gorgeous song that develops a nice bit of menace until its eventual climax.
Ultimately, aside from leaning a tad bit too far away from their extreme side at times (and an unfortunately brick-walled mix), there’s nothing else to complain about. Urn is a modern prog metal masterpiece of impressive and continuously interesting songwriting. Ne Obliviscaris have wisely used the time since The Citadel to create their most cohesive album to date.