Exul by Ne Obliviscaris

Release date:
Label: Season of Mist

There’s no one else in the world who sounds quite like Ne Oblivscaris. Their mix of extreme metal, progressive metal and classical instrumentation is eclectic, schizophrenic, often nonsensical but utterly their own. Album number four has been a long time coming – as with so many bands, COVID left a heavy toll on the Australians, and ultimately lead to long time drummer Dan Presland deciding to leave the band during production. Yet they have returned, and Exul is immediately recognisable as the work of the band who caused such a stir when they first broke on to the scene over a decade ago.

Indeed, the band’s modus operandi is almost entirely unchanged and that is both a positive and a negative for this album. The twin vocalists are as effective as ever – Xenoyr’s anguished howls juxtapose well with Tim Charles’ soaring operatics. The band’s unpredictable tendencies also work in their favour – at any time, a song is just as likely to descend into Presland’s ferocious blastbeats as it is to launch into a majestic violin solo, courtesy of Charles. At this point, Ne Obliviscaris know exactly what they do and they know how to do it – they know when to dial a song back and give it space, and they know exactly when to let loose and unleash hell.

Opener ‘Equus’ is case in point. A ferocious opening crashes straight into an anthemic chorus, giving no time for rest or respite. Yet, this opening violence gives way as the song develops over its twelve-minute run time, a sad violin melody slowly gaining prominence as the track evolves into an epic overture.


The two-part ‘Misericorde’ follows, a suite of two diametrically opposed tracks. ‘Misericorde I: As the Flesh Falls’ is the heaviest track on the album, a violent, throbbing juxtaposition to ‘Misericorde II: Anatomy of Quiescence’, which is a laid back, largely instrumental piece of echoing edges, that only truly kicks in towards the end of its near ten-minute runtime.

‘Suspyre’ kicks things back into gear, a far faster track – and yet, it feels fleeting, struggling to leave an impact despite, once again an extended run time. ‘Graal’ fares a little better, a grim, grinding track that – despite a comparatively slim runtime – somewhat overstays its welcome. The problem with Ne Oblivscaris’ kitchen sink approach is that sometimes the kitchen sink can become a soggy mess, where it’s hard to see exactly what you’re meant to be cleaning.

For the most part, Exul holds together pretty well. Yet, after four albums it’s hard not to feel a little underwhelmed. The Australians are virtuosos, masters of their craft. They could either take risks, or buckle down and create the best album they can make. Exul does neither – there’s little sign of any progress since 2017’s Urn. For the most part, that’s fine – there is still no one else out there that sounds quite like Ne Obliviscaris. Yet, for a band that started out so ground-breaking, its hard not to feel that this is the sound of them playing safe.

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