After struggling through the first quarter of this year tangled in a situation politely described as unpleasant, Ne Obliviscaris have delivered their third full-length statement.
Urn bears all the hallmarks of this band’s previous work: sweeping, meticulous arrangements, near-virtuoso playing and the balance of darkness and fragility inherent in the interplay between Tim Charles’ and Xenoyr’s contrasting vocal styles, but there is frustratingly little in the way of further progression from their now well established sound. Where Citadel was a development and focus-adjustment on the wanderings of The Portal of I, Urn feels like Ne Obliviscaris is treading water, revisiting tropes already explored on the previous two albums without adding anything more.
That isn’t to say there aren’t some gorgeous passages of music to be found hereon. The marvellous opening track builds and flows as elements are added and the mood shifts from light to menace and light again, ending with some surging strings and choral chanting. There is some fantastic guitar/violin interplay woven into the beginning of ‘Urn Pt 1’ and ‘Eyrie’ twists and turns with a labyrinthine majesty as the band invoke Opethian and Arcturus-like shapes across what is the album’s best track. As far as epic songwriting of the kind found on their catalogue so far Ne Obliviscaris does not hold back, yet something seems to be missing, some aspect that made The Portal of I luminescent and Citadel breathtaking.
Urn is certainly an excellent release and an album that encapsulates the grandiosity of Ne Obliviscaris, but for a band that places such high standards on themselves, it doesn’t really move them forward, and that’s a little disappointing. Whether this is the result of the problematic but necessary sundering of their tightly-knit unit early in the year or some creative pressure that results from being a completely crowd-funded band, only time will tell.
1. Libera (Pt 1) – Saturnine Spheres
2. Libera (Pt 2) – Ascent of Burning Moths
3. Intra Venus
5. Urn (Pt 1) – And Within the Void We Are Breathless
6. Urn (Pt 2) – As Embers Dance in Our Eyes