At the pinnacle of this country’s metal output

Citadel can literally be summed up in a single word: extraordinary.

In the space of two albums, Ne Obliviscaris have now positioned themselves at the top of Australian metal talent and Citadel is not only at the pinnacle of this country’s metal output, it’s at the top of the pile of music released this year. It is an album by a prestigiously gifted band concentrating on their songcraft and coming up with a triumph of three Cs – condensed, cohesive and concise. This album has only one less track than their previous opus but is more than twenty minutes shorter, and all the better for it. Portal of I was by and large an excellent album in its own right but a few of the songs had a tendency to wander for the sake of wandering as if NeO wanted to show everyone how clever they all were. The Melbourne sextet aren’t alone among prog bands when it comes to moments of grandiloquent self-indulgence of course, but they’re done showing off now and more at ease with their own creativity.

The opening suite leaves none in doubt that this is a band at the height of its power, a slow and subtle building of atmosphere that explodes into clashing metal guitars, thundering drums and the deep roar of Xenoyr then juxtaposed by the melodic tones of Tim Charles whose violin adds a layer of ethereal melody across the course of the track. Part II of ‘Painters of the Tempest’ ebbs and flows with stunning cohesion, leading to an epic guitar solo well into the second movement, cresendoing once again with furious beats as the band again rips into full metal overdrive, subsiding eventually into a three-minute violin concerto backed with arpeggiated guitars. Relief is short-lived – ‘Phyrric’ erupts straight into frantic death metal hammering with Charles wringing tortured tones from his instrument, both vocalists playing counterpoint to each other over a backdrop of furious tremolo picking creating a breathtaking melange of menace and melody. Two-thirds in, the track takes on a transcendent quality with quiet tones and sparse drumming with the violin again taking the fore until the metal returns to carry the song to a violent conclusion. ‘Blackholes’ plays the part of a more conventional death metal track, at least in the context of this album, built on a huge, catchy riff that drives forward into mid-paced meandering instrumental and melodic sections. The staccato build into the guitar solo here is nothing short of brilliance.

Ne Obliviscaris have outdone themselves and the expectations of all. Citadel is a masterpiece.

1. Painters of the Tempest (Part I): Wyrmholes
2. Painters of the Tempest (Part II): Triptych Lux (Movement I: Creator. Movement II: Cynosure. Movement III: Curator)
3. Painters of the Tempest (Part III): Reveries from the Stained Glass Womb
4. Phyrric
5: Devour Me, Colossus (Part I): Blackholes
6. Devour Me, Colossus (Part II): Contortions