Review: Ne Obliviscaris’ Exul is a Challenging and Satisfying Progressive Journey


The recording of Ne Obliviscaris’ fourth album Exul was a long and arduous process. It started in March 2020, just as the pandemic was beginning. Some band members were able to get home to Australia, but others were stranded overseas. It took eight studios in three countries, but the album was eventually finished. The band faced another setback when longtime drummer Daniel Presland recently left the band.

The silver lining in the added time it took to record the album is that the band had an opportunity to revisit the songs, and ended up fine tuning and re-writing parts. That allowed Ne Obliviscaris to push the boundaries of their brand of progressive extreme metal to new places.

There are a few things that set Ne Obliviscaris apart from their peers in the genre. One is how dynamic their songs are, flowing smoothly between brutality and melody. Another is the use of violin and other stringed instruments, sometimes used as atmosphere, but other times front and center.

Album opener “Equus” is also the record’s longest track at over 12 minutes. The first half is grandiose and aggressive with a combination of harsh vocals from Xen and cleans from Tim Charles, followed by a delicate interlude with strings and acoustic guitars along with clean vocals before the intensity and harsh vocals resume.

That sets the table for the songs that are the centerpiece of the record: “Misericorde I – As The Flesh Falls” and “Misericorde – Anatomy of Quiescence.” The first part is direct with prominent guitars and some really heavy moments along with a violin solo. Charles takes his violin and viola playing to another level on the second part, from the yearning, deliberate intro to a more urgent style later in the track, which doesn’t see the vocals kick in until more than six minutes into the nine minute opus.

While Charles’ violin and viola are featured throughout, there’s a guest cellist on “Suspyre,” which contrasts the intense drums and harsh vocals. The arrangement has clever shifts from strings to guitars and back again, with bassist Martino Garattoni providing some catchy licks.

There is absolutely no decline in quality as the album progresses. Writing long songs isn’t difficult, but writing long songs that are engaging and interesting is. With their technical chops and compositional creativity, Ne Obliviscaris grabs the listener from a song’s opening note and don’t let go. They close Exul with the mellow “Anhedonia,” which features Charles’ most passionate and varied singing on the album before ending with a cacophony of strings.

Many records are basically collections of singles, which can be listened to on random without much of an effect on the listening experience. Not so with Exul, which is arranged very specifically. The whole of the album with its ebbs and flows and intricate compositions has an even greater impact than the sum of its parts, something Ne Obliviscaris has mastered.

Ne Obliviscaris’ Exul is released on March 24 via Season of Mist, but you can preorder your copy today.

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