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Good but not THAT good, damn - 79%

Noktorn, October 14th, 2007

Ne Obliviscaris is a band that's been receiving a surprisingly large amount of attention in the metal underground as of late. The band's debut demo, 'The Aurora Veil', seems to have taken the Australian, and, to some degree, international metal scenes by storm. After all, today is a good day to be a progressive black or death metal band: such artists are receiving much more attention these days, and above and beyond mere displays of technicality; audiences seem to be seeking more abstract music as a whole. This band in particular's brand of melodic, progressive black metal has seemed to entrance numerous metal fans with their unique sound.

Okay, so that's the way most people seem to be opening their reviews of 'The Aurora Veil': with a sort of slavering devotion to the status quo minus any sort of critical eye. Progressive black metal, like most 'progressive' metal, generally ends up being not very progressive at all. Hell, most of it's pretty REGRESSIVE because they're all depending on the same 'progressive' elements: weird time signatures, extra, unusual instruments, lots of instrumental flourishes, etc. None of these are progressive in the least. Progressive is doing something that's actually abstract and unique, but isn't that way simply to be such. Additionally, everyone is attempting to jump onto the progressive bandwagon when they really shouldn't be. More bands need to understand that they should be making solid, generic heavy metal that reinforces the genre instead of going off on tangents that lead to nowhere relevant.

Ne Obliviscaris is a good band. They're not the be-all, end-all of music that some people seem to be making them out to be. Maybe it's just the fact that novelty breeds hyperbole, and the fact that a new band comes along with a solid, very ambitious demo strikes a chord within a large set of people who erroneously think that quality can only be attained through diligent decades of study in Nepal. 'The Aurora Veil' is a very good demo, even moreso as a debut, but it, like all things, is not without flaws. People will heap praise on anything sufficiently different, but I like to think that I can see past the aesthetic sheen and cut to the content a bit more directly than most. And when you peel back the sheen, Ne Obliviscaris is a solid band with a promising future in front of them.

So this band plays progressive black metal that in the end is really neither very progressive nor very black metal. There's one really obvious new element, which is the frequently employed violin that so many people keep harping on, but the rest of the music is based off conventional instruments. I don't see this as particularly 'black metal'. It doesn't have a black metal atmosphere, black metal attitude, or even black metal instrumentation apart from there being tremolo riffs and blast beats. The production is essentially flawless: very clean, very evenly mixed, very professional, fitting the nature of the music. And, of course, the playing is top notch from everyone involved, and there's not even the most minor error to be found.

The music itself is pretty good. Ne Obliviscaris' music is extremely melodic and alternates between the melancholic and the uplifting as far as those melodies go. The three lengthy tracks on this demo are packed with various structural changes, moving from blasting to acoustic sections to midpaced flow quite cleanly and professionally. Clean vocals are employed extensively, as are various guitar and drum techniques which add a great deal of variation to the music. The tracks never quite get boring, though they do tend to blur together; I can't really tell you much of a difference between them, though they're all pretty cool. It's music that operates rather exclusively within its own frame of emotion and mood, though there is a lot of variation within that frame itself.

Like all 'progressive' bands, Ne Obliviscaris walks the tightrope between the dramatic and cool and the undeniably pretentious, and also like most of those artists, falls occasionally. 'Forget Not' has a couple really self-indulgent violin-driven portions that add nothing to the music. For a band that features the violin so prominently, though, they can be excused for the occasional pretentious passage, because the instrument is generally incorporated rather tastefully, if in a very melodramatic fashion. The band verges on cheesy most of the time without crossing over; that comes with the territory of writing music that's so agonizingly melodic at all times.

I think that the band could add a bit more viciousness to the overall package. Even the most 'brutal' passages of 'The Aurora Veil' are pretty damned gentle, all things considered, and the band often treads dangerously close to the area of a band like Woods Of Ypres, though they never get as bad as that band. I still think that adding some sort of harsher edge would create a more unique dynamic, because blasting and growling alone does not create darkness or intensity. Part of it is the musical background I come from talking, because while I enjoy very melodic, uplifting music, hedging it with a bit of contrast is always pleasant to me. Most people would absolutely love this demo, though, because it is an expertly crafted piece of work in its own field.

So while most others would find this genius, I find it 'merely' very good. It's black metal for people who don't listen to black metal, so everyone should at least give this a try, though with slightly lowered expectations from what others would have you believe. Ne Obliviscaris is not this great, glowing god that will single-handedly drive heavy metal into some musical stratosphere incomprehensible to mortal beings, but they are very good songwriters that are worth your time to investigate, regardless of your typical tastes, though those geared to the melodic end of the spectrum will obviously get more out of this than others. 'The Aurora Veil' is a very good demo that promises even better things from the future, and in the end, I'm happy to own a copy of it.