Setbacks, delays, pandemics and various studios across several countries and finally progressive metallers Ne Obliviscaris have returned to offer their new opus Exul to the world.
Ne Obliviscaris are known for their strong musical dynamic and how effortlessly they flow through emotions, amalgamating various genres in a rich kaleidoscope. NeO take their framework of progressive metal and interlace the heaviness and intricacy of technical death and melodeath and add a touch of shoegaze for gentle elegance. To put it simply, NeO are that multifaceted band who make music with a universe of depth.
New album Exul is the culmination of nearly six years away and several years of hard work resulting in an inspired masterpiece of raw expression.
Lead single “Equus” opens the album by leading you into former drummer Dan Presland’s rolling beats and tech riffs before breaking away into enchanting shoegazing magic and sweeping violins. Tim Charles’ gorgeous voice contrasts effectively alongside Xenoyr’s gravelly harsh tones as does his virtuoso stringwork. The thunderous midsection introduces battling drum beats and chugging guitars galloping forth as violins still sweetly sing as if the light piercing through a dark cloud. The violin is the bands backbone and carries the rawest of emotive pangs, weaving pure emotion into the track even at its darkest moments.
The two parts of “Misericorde I – As the Flesh Fails” and “Misericorde II – Anatomy of Quiescence” provide exquisite contrast, with the former being a punchy, chug-laden track with Garattoni’s quirky bass patterns dancing amongst energetic tech-death and sporadic aggression through short, jagged blastbeats. The use of violins in the first part is especially sombre, exuding a particularly old-fashioned longing as it travels over both playful and smokey lounge ambience, whereas the latter part pulls the heartstrings a little more with its delicate intro of keys and pensive violins leading into unconventional prog riffing and a runtime mostly bereft of vocals. Beauty arises throughout the finale as the music swells, introducing vocals and a return to the harsher technical sounds to conclude the two-parter.
“Suspyre” opens the second half of the album, delivering an extremely tight and nuanced track with scattershot blastbeats alongside monstrous riffs and grating stringwork. Post-black moments of airy serenity appear only to be scrubbed away with crushing quick-fingered technicality and fleeting brutality. The track beautifully sums up NeO’s musical equilibrium of devastation through dark and light tones. There is an exceptional moment towards the climax where jarring violins descend into chaos as blastbeats pummel over them, showing that NeO can expell some true extremity. “Graal” continues that angular approach of rasping instruments to elegantly scrape at your soul with even more wicked violins and features the albums most blackened, icy riffs. Vocals are put aside for the final half and instruments are left to shine, clearing away your cobwebs with Charles’ heartfelt yet meloncholy-drenched violins riding with pitch-black guitarwork. The haunting instrumental “Anhedonia” ends the album with Charles’ ethereal voice sending chills down your spine as staccato Carpenter-esque keys gently tap and strings lament to a satisfying conclusion.
Unbelievable. One of many words to describe Exul but one that neatly sums it up. There’s not a stale moment and each track is so vividly painted with colours that you feel every twinge or wash of emotion those hues bring. From anger through the weight of the metal and the bleak tones infused in the veins of this album to the pensive, reflective stringwork of both violin and guitars weeping in unison. The harsh and sombre elements to the music are so precisely clear and balanced, bolstered with sublime production clarity, that it’s pure harmony to listen to.
The high expectations of a band as prestigious as Ne Obliviscaris and paired with their time away will garner some hestiancy. In 6 tracks and 52 minutes Exul wipes away those fears and ushers in a bright and creative rejuvenation for the Aussie band. Exul is their most desolate, emotive and evocative release yet.