Saturday, 8 November 2014

Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel Review

Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel [Progressive Metal]

As an album, I can't say I enjoyed this more than their debut. Blastbeats and clean sections come marching in with no endpoint, and it's clear that the only direction this band has is in its non-metal movements. The metal sections are too generic for me. Vocals are far too monotonous. You will be forgiven if you haven't heard this band because they are relatively young. Their debut 'Portal Of I' was only released in 2012, but it's novelty of implementing a violinist into semi-Opeth soundscapes seemed to please many metalheads around the world. I enjoyed some of the songs there, though not initially. Till today, a fair portion of the album seems too self-indulgent. The violin, while providing some beautiful moments, never struck me as a 'metal' instrument. What I mean was that it seemed superimposed onto the progressive metal sound, and played mostly like a guest instrument rather than part of the song-writing process. An example of what I consider a great addition to the metal sound is Jørgen Munkeby's saxophone on Ihsahn's album 'After', which I implore you to listen to if you haven't already.

So does this album deliver? Song-by-song... which is tricky since the whole album is mostly three very long songs split up into 6 tracks:

  1. Painters Of The Tempest (Part I)- Wyrmholes: Piano and violin. A well-written introduction. 
  2. Painters Of The Tempest (Part II)- Triptych Lux: Two minutes of death metal suddenly interrupted by a jazz section with classical guitars and violins; it's jarring but not shocking to those who have already heard their debut. I wish, however, that the death metal moments of the song were written with more variety. It seems to be the same pattern of blastbeats and generic screams. This one song alone is further broken down to three very distinct parts, and surprisingly, they flow well. The abrupt changes are mostly within the individual parts. My favourite section has to be the last one, entitled 'Curator'. It's clearly marked out with hazy guitars and a pulsating bassline. The violin melody is actually well written in this one, which is more than I can say for half the songs on the debut. 
  3. Painters Of The Tempest (Part III)- Reveries From The Stained Glass Womb: A flamenco instrumental. Again, the clean sections of the album are the only outstanding one's so far. While a great display of musical knowledge and prowess, it's mood is very different from the first two parts of the song. Not a fan of the inconsistency. 
  4. Pyrrhic: Second full song on the album. This was a pretty good song throughout. Great riffs, an obvious motif with the violin and the rhythm section does a great job here. The violin is well-integrated, though not necessarily in a 'metal' way. Song has a sudden ambient moment, which doesn't feel forced, and in fact goes on to the violin-led end of the song, one of the stronger moments on this album. 
  5. Devour Me, Colossus (Part I)- Blackholes: By this time the album verges on fatigue. Unlike bands like Opeth, who write structurally coherent songs without losing progression, this band seems to be more monotonous. Nothing seems to stand out in this song. 
  6. Devour Me, Colossus (Part II)- Contortions: instrumental with the same piano notes from the first song. Well, it's still a pretty nice melody.

Also, the production is terrible. The mix does nothing to make the guitars sound heavy (possibly why the metal sections sound terrible), the drums are overproduced and have a thin sound. The violin is clear, but perhaps too clear; it's too jarring and steals all the limelight when it comes into place. Only the bass is done well. The DR8 is deceptive, seeing that the album has many instrumental/atmospheric moments that would skew the dynamic range towards the higher numbers.

The instrumentals are great, and 'Pyrrhic' is a good song, but the two other songs, 'Contortions' in particular, have far too little in them to justify their lengths.


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