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Ne Obliviscaris - "Portal of I" (CD)

Ne Obliviscaris - "Portal of I" CD cover image

"Portal of I" track listing:

1. Tapestry of the Starless Abstract (12:01)
2. Xenoflux (10:01)
3. Of the Leper Butterflies (5:52)
4. Forget Not (12:04)
5. And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope (11:35)
6. As Icicles Fall (9:24)
7. Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise (10:43)

Reviewed by on August 30, 2012

"'Portal of I' is a full-spectrum metal experience well worth the time and effort required. It combines the best of many different styles into one fluid musical journey that’s equal parts breathtaking prog and extreme blackened death metal."

If the name Ne Obliviscaris sounds vaguely familiar but you can’t quite place it, you aren’t alone. The Australian act caused a big stir with a single demo, only now releasing a proper full-length several years later, and “Portal of I” has already brought on calls from many metal fans and reviewers for a bigger label to scoop the band up. Complex and multi-faceted, this debut album covers both ends of the metal spectrum, and is in turns about as progressive and extreme as a release can get. If ever there was a freshman output to get excited about, this one is it.

The music on “Portal Of I” is difficult to describe with any simple genre tag. The closest thing would be progressive-symphonic blackened death metal, but that’s an unfortunate mouthful and doesn’t actually cover everything anyway. The first few minutes of opening track “Tapestry of the Starless Abstract” seem like the album will be a Blut Aus Nord-styled black metal release, but across the whole disc, there’s actually more of a focus on prog aspects and attempts to cross genre boundaries.

The amount of musical styles and instrumentation going on will bring to mind death metal opera Mayan, or even the avant-garde and prog-tastic acts like To-Mera. Comparisons to Opeth have been made, but that parallel exists solely in stylistic touches and the movement from heavy to soft segments. The extreme ends are headed up by black metal and technical death metal, but everything from djent to symphonic can be heard at one point or another. Songs like “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope” follow a prog-metal staple of using the bass as the driving instrument at the forefront. There are plenty of harsh vocals, along with a fair share of clean singing from the power/progressive realm.

Ten and 12 minute song lengths are the norm here, but there tends to be very distinct shifts between different segments of any given song, so it’s not clear why they were mashed together instead of remaining apart. Each 12 minute song could easily be a series of four minute tracks, especially since some of the segments are clearly instrumental interlude material. Oddly one of the offerings that best blends the various styles together without sounding like different tracks altogether is the shortest song “Of the Leper Butterflies,” clocking in at a mere five and a half minutes. It’s also one of the best and most representative songs of the album, throwing in an Opethian sound, along with backing female vocals, plenty of strings, and some technicality.

Aside from the strange choice of merging clearly separate songs together, and the slightly fuzzy sound around some of the black metal segments, “Portal of I” is a full-spectrum metal experience well worth the time and effort required. It combines the best of many different styles into one fluid musical journey that’s equal parts breathtaking prog and extreme blackened death metal.

Highs: This album has everything and then some, and it's all done very well.

Lows: The songs don't need to be nearly this long, and the black metal segments have a bit of low sound quality fuzz around them.

Bottom line: Ne Obliviscaris crosses about a dozen musical genres in one (mostly) fluid experience of full-force blackened death metal, tempered by prog and symphonic elements.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)