Ne Obliviscaris's 'Citadel' is the result of a dark, unholy union between death metal, Dream Theater and a horror movie score. This is an album that you cannot instantly put on and understand, there is just too much going on here to comprehend without repeated listens. This is not a negative criticism, but a warning for discerning metal listeners to withhold judgement on 'Citadel' until they have fully allowed the immense landscapes of music to embed itself completely into their psyches. This album is definitely not for the faint of heart or the casual, Metallica shirt wearing heavy metal observer, this rich tapestry of constant changing musical styles ebbs and flows in a tumultuous display of musical genius.
This album has taken me longer than any others to review just through the enormity of what is on offer here, it actually took me a lot of listens to decide whether I liked it or not. I realised the answer was in the affirmative by the fact I kept being drawn back to listen to it, there is something truly captivating about this album. With its fusion of heavy metal, classical, flamenco, jazz and progressive rock it takes the listener on such a surreal journey that I found myself immersed so completely in that when the album would finish I would be left wondering where the last 48 minutes had gone. 'Citadel' lulls you into a false sense of security with its serene classical passages, complete with violin before launching headfirst into a full frontal attack and with such contradicting styles it is hard to believe it is all contained within the confines of one album.
The album offers two very contrasting vocal styles, Tim Charles' clean almost James LaBrie (Dream Theater) like vocals and the harsh growls of Xenoyr. Both styles lend themselves perfectly to the shifting dimensions of the music on offer, as like the vocals the music encapsulates all extremities of the spectrum. One only has to listen to the grandiose 'Painters of the Tempest (Part II): Triptych Lux' or the equally impressive 'Devour Me, Colossus (Part I): Blackholes' both weighing in at in excess of ten minutes to fully appreciate the magnificence of this band.
Credit needs to go to Troy McKosker and vocalist/violinist Tim Charles for impressive production on this album and Jens Bogren who mixed and mastered the album. The task of delineating all the different instruments on this album into the vibrant, cohesive entity that 'Citadel' is must have been a pretty formidable task. Stand out tracks for me are the two aforementioned songs 'Painters of the Tempest (Part II): Triptych Lux', 'Devour Me, Colossus (Part I): Blackholes' and the beautiful and haunting intro 'Painters Of The Tempest (PART I) WYRMHOLES'. I don’t pretend to fully understand what is on offer here but as a music aficionado I can’t help but be captivated by the majesty that is 'Citadel'.
You can catch Ne Obliviscaris with Beyond Creation at the Adelaide Uni Bar, November 22nd.
Review by Mike Trandafil