Ne Obliviscaris: A Mighty Fortress
Eclectic Melbournians Ne Obliviscaris pursue a unique approach within an extreme metal scene populated by faceless sound-a-likes. Violinist/clean vocalist Tim Charles talks to BLUNT about breaking records and new ground.
Aside from joy derived from crafting new sophomore record Citadel, Melbourne’s stylistically wide-reaching Ne Obliviscaris have much to be content about. Namely, shattering the Australian record for music-related crowd-funding (more on that later), in addition to their upcoming appearance on the Soundwave juggernaut.
According to violinist/clean vocalist Tim Charles though, among the highest compliments paid them throughout a decade-long career wasn’t loyal fans pledging their hard-earned, landing major tours or critical praise. It was the Sydney Conservatorium of Music incorporating a track from the band’s debut LP Portal of I (2012) into its teaching curriculum. Given Charles’s past tutelage, it was improbable, but most welcome validation.
“Last year, we got approached by Matthew Hindson, the head of composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music,” he explains. “One of the assignments that he was going to set for his class (was) to study some different composers’ work, and one of the things that he was setting for the composition students to study was our song “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope”. Which for me, as a classical musician who studied at like a conservatorium and studied composition in a classical sense was really mind-blowing, because I know how close-minded by comparison my composition teachers were,” he laughs. “It was really cool to get that sort of acknowledgement; that anyone at that level would think that it was worth looking at our music and studying what we were doing.
“I guess (it was) one of the most satisfying (achievements) because it was so unexpected. It’s not something that you think about as a kid. You don’t grow up and think, ‘yeah, I want to write stuff that will be studied in the conservatorium one day’,” he laughs. “It’s something that just came out of nowhere… I think to be in a position where anything you were involved with, which gets onto the other side as being part of the curriculum as opposed to you just being a student, it was pretty incredible.”
“Incredible” is an apt descriptor of many recent events surrounding the avant-garde extreme/prog-metal crew. Having previously supported the likes of Devin Townsend, Enslaved, Cradle of Filth and Between the Buried and Me, following a three-week headline run throughout Asia, Ne Obliviscaris launched the aforementioned crowd-funding campaign to facilitate further international touring. The outcome was staggering. “I guess it was one of those things where you set a target of $40,000, and we thought that was pretty ambitious,” the violinist laughs. “We had 60 days to hit it, and then after 38 hours we’d already got $40,000 and we went on to get over $86,000 and break the Australian record.”
The successful appeal afforded Ne Obliviscaris a sense of security, certainty even, despite the industry’s volatile state. It will enable them to attempt “all these sorts of things that a lot of bands have to send themselves broke to do”. At the time of this conversation, Charles is busily booking the world tour. Apart from the Soundwave shows, European festival appearances, North America, Asia and more are all slated for 2015.
Said assistance stemmed from some unlikely sources. “It wasn’t just a few people here in Australia or just a few people in the US; it was people from all over the place. We were amazed at how many people would leave us messages and comments from all these countries where you wouldn’t even think you might have many fans. We had so many people commenting and pledging from places like Mexico, or obscure little countries somewhere in Europe. Even in the Middle East; places like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Places that you wouldn’t think there would be huge metal scenes, but there would still be people contributing to what we wanted to do.”
Not that Ne Obliviscaris are an overnight sensation – this groundswell of support the culmination of several years’ hard graft. Citadel is also reflective of this work ethic, albeit created via a far shorter gestation period than its predecessor.
“Portal of I took nine years from when we first started the band to it actually getting released. The songs were written between 2005 and 2009, and we had a couple of member changes during the writing process. Each song on that album is almost like a different chapter from the early years of our career. Whereas Citadel, we wrote the whole thing in 2013. We were in one place in our career, we had the one line-up and we were all on the same page.”
Another key facet of the new material – and likely the band’s overall attraction – is they have carved a distinctive sound. BLUNT suggests to Charles this is an increasingly rare proposition within heavy music. “Some of our early stuff we were experimenting with different ideas; some of it worked, some of it didn’t. I guess for me as violinist, I experimented with lots of different approaches of how to make the violin work in a metal band. There aren’t a lot of people to copy, so it was a lot of just trying out different things, learning about what sounds I could make, and what roles I could fulfil within the band.
“I think a lot of that really just came about because when we would write, slowly over time the boundaries that a lot of bands impose upon themselves, we really in a conscious way broke them down… Slowly what happened from the band’s early years is that our sound just got broader and broader. I think that’s happened again on this album. There’s some stuff that is more extreme, more intense than anything on Portal of I, then there’s other sounds on the more melodic end that we didn’t do on the other album. If we love it, whatever it sounds like; whether it’s black metal or prog, death metal, classical guitar, we really don’t care as long as we love it. We just to try let our own individuality as musicians shine through in what we write.”