Ne Obliviscaris - Exul review
|Release date:||March 2023|
02. Misericorde I - As The Flesh Falls
03. Misericorde II - Anatomy Of Quiescence
Ne Obliviscaris, the band whose name means ‘forget not’, have spent pretty much their whole career making unforgettable music; Exul is the latest high point of a discography already crammed with highlights.
You likely know the drill by now: long songs with extremity, technicality, atmosphere and melody, featuring a healthy mix of extreme and clean-sung vocals, and with the added feature of ever-present violin that has pretty much become Ne Obliviscaris’s calling card. If you’ve heard Citadel or Urn, Exul is not going to surprise you stylistically. However, just because the basic formula is well established doesn’t mean that the specific contents have lost their capacity to enthrall, and on Exul, Ne Obliviscaris once again bring their A-game, with an album that’s a step up from its predecessor Urn.
Exul begins in typically bold fashion with its longest song (if the two parts of “Misericorde” are counted as separate tracks), “Equus”, which is a nice little summary of what Ne Obliviscaris are all about. An ominous atmospheric introduction shifts into a clean initial verse with acoustic guitars, before the first onslaught of the customary double bass rolls begin; this is Dan Presland’s final outing with the band, and he goes out on a high note, expanding his range even further beyond the dominating blasts and double bass attacks than he has on previous albums. The song features great solos (guitars, violin and bass), sharp-edged riffs, more technical passages, textures, and softer detours. Everything builds solidly to the rousing climax of the song, with clean and extreme vocalists Tim Charles and Xenoyr trading off amidst tremolos and a great guitar solo.
Great general points to note about Exul: the bass is super clear in the mix, at times more audible than the guitars, and is always up to something exciting and lively; the solos are reliably great throughout; the shifts into softer mid-song interludes, and builds back into more extreme territory around them, are well integrated and introduced with natural-sounding transitions mostly; and the riffs find a good balance between a degree of technical proficiency without falling into tech-death excess, although perhaps it’s a bit more technically minded than Urn. Often, the less hectic riffs stand out more, such as a particularly Opethian one towards the end of “Suspyre”. “Misericorde I - As The Flesh Falls” starts off more mid-tempo and measured, before then going faster and more technical. This song cuts back and forth between riffs and solos, with some lovely interplay between the instruments. It starts off aggressively, but really builds the tension and emotions later on, a cleaner atmospheric passage driven by great vocals from Charles segueing into a delightful climax with beautiful violin, hyperenergetic drums and devouring screams from Xenoyr.
If “Misericorde I” were the best song on Exul, it would be a well-earned title, but amazingly, it is immediately overshadowed by “Misericorde II - Anatomy Of Quiescence”, which is almost certainly NeO’s finest hour to date. The majority of this song from its introduction is mainly soft, a moving violin solo first taking the stage before an exhilarating guitar solo takes over, starting off soft and bluesy before becoming more technical as the distortion comes in. Afterwards, there’s a sumptuous prolonged build section with tremolo’d guitars, throbbing bass, tension-building violins and rolling hi-hats, all of which gradually intensify until finally screams come in, the metal takes centre stage, and all of the emotion of the previous 15 minutes is encapsulated by the most lush violins and clean vocals. The only thing to say when the dust is settling as the song finishes is: wow.
Beyond this song, “Suspyre” is on the riffier side, with only a brief softer interlude, but the trade-off between the violin and guitar solos at the end is excellent, and “Graal” is similarly rounded out with some lush guitar duets and a nice violin passage over a closing double bass roll. The all-violin outro piece “Anhedonia” is the kind of understated denouement an album as epic as this requires, to allow one to take stock of everything that’s happened. As far as I’m concerned, Exul is Ne Obliviscaris at their finest; Citadel has always been my favourite by the band, but I think with time it’s possible Exul will eclipse it, due to a) having a bit more material to connect with, and b) having “Misericorde”. Whether it’s their ‘best’ album will cause some debate, particularly given the regard that so many hold Portal Of I in, but I would be surprised if many existing fans of the band had much disappointment with Exul. It’s also not going to convert those not swayed by their previous records, but really, who cares?
||Written on 27.03.2023 by|
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