Latest release: Citadel (Season of Mist)
Three years ago the future looked bleak for Ne Obliviscaris. Drummer Dan Presland had departed and French guitarist Benji Baret was stuck in his homeland without a visa that would allow him to return to Australia and work with them.
“It was hugely difficult. The band was so close to breaking down and breaking up so many times. When Portal of I actually came out, the band had barely existed for the last year and a half,” admits vocalist and violinist Tim Charles. “Everyone’s enthusiasm for the band was at an all time low, really. Because we were just trying to get the album out there and it took everything we had just not to break up. Throughout the course of 2011 there was a few guys in the band who were talking about whether we should just forget about it.”
It was only a last ditch effort to promote the album they had been working on for several years that kept them together. Posting a video they made for the eleven and a half minute ‘And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope’ brought about immediate positive results and a new level of anticipation for Portal of I. When it was released a few months later, the band’s faith in itself paid off immediately.
“When the album came out it was received really well and I think it was only a week later that Season of Mist contacted us, then we managed to get Dan back in the band and we suddenly we realised that maybe we could do this,” Charles says. “Maybe we could fulfil all those dreams that we’d had for so many years and build them into a reality.”
In the time since then, Ne Obliviscaris has certainly begun to do exactly that. Last year the sextet toured across South East Asia and then played in Australia with Devin Townsend, Cradle of Filth, Soilwork, Enslaved, Sirenia and Between the Buried and Me all within the space of a few months and were the first act named on 2015’s Soundwave festival bill. The game clincher came when they announced a crowd-funding campaign on Pozible to help them finance their plans for international touring. Given that they were still a virtually unknown band from a country that cares little about progressive metal, there may have been a few who thought NeO’s target of $40,000 somewhat ambitious. The joke’s on them.
“We knew that the support was there from around the world and they wanted us to tour and I guess that’s why we came up with the idea,” Charles explains. “But at the same time, it’s one thing for someone to say, ‘Hey I like your band. Come to my country’, and it’s another thing for people to follow that through and actually put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. And that’s where any band that does a crowd-funding campaign really does their educated guesses and we did a lot of research and we studied a lot of different campaigns and worked out the best way to go about it but you never really know how you’re going to go until you do it, so to set a sixty day campaign and a $40,000 target and then to hit it in 38 hours really blew our minds!”
The international Ne Obliviscaris fan base helped destroy the previous Australian music crowd-funding record held by Eskimo Joe to the tune of more than ten grand. By the end of their two-month campaign Ne Obliviscaris had raised $86,132, a staggering amount for any band. Tim Charles is quick to point out, however, that when it comes to funding a touring metal band it’s not as much money as it might appear.
“It doesn’t go as far as people think,” he says. “For us, most of the money is already spent. We’re booking tours in advance of what we have already. With the 86 grand we had, we had to print 700 t-shirts and record two EPs and postage has to come out of that. We probably end up with maybe 50 grand profit in our pocket. That’s still an enormous amount of money, but that will probably just cover our flights to go to Europe once and go to the US once and go to Asia once. And that’s a world tour!”
Such stunning success doesn’t go unnoticed, even in Australia. When they were named on the Soundwave bill ahead of anyone else people began talking. When they smashed a record set by a two-time #1 album-scoring, eight-time ARIA Award winning band, the talk became a roar. Even the mainstream suddenly wanted to know about this strange band – Death metal growling! Violins! Who’d’ve thunk it? – with the Latin name.
“It’s definitely done great things for the band,” Charles says. “There was a lot of mainstream rock media in Australia that really didn’t know who we were and then for the first time ever they did stories about us when we were the first band announced on Soundwave, and then about two months later we broke the Australian crowd-funding record and then all of these mainstream rock websites did more on us, and now a lot of them know who we are and a lot of them are covering the album release this week.”
Portal of I made dozens of Best of Year lists in 2012, so Ne Obliviscaris already had a high standard to live up to when it came to putting together a new album. With that in mind, and given that they are a band still only on their second album, there was a lot to think about.
“When you do [get a response like] that you sort of set a pretty high bar for what you expect for the album,” says the violinist. “It’s sort of like, ‘Well, if people aren’t saying it’s one of the best albums of the year, it’s sort of going backwards!’ But at the same time, the most important thing for us wasn’t what everyone else thought of it in that regard but whether people really liked the music. We were really proud of it and thought it was the best album we could have done. Honestly, before we started writing we didn’t know whether it would be better or worse or about the same as Portal of I because it had been a while since we’d been writing, and we’d only written one album before so I guess you never really know what you’re going to do. So for us it was a great period of experimentation with direction.”
Citadel is already winning stellar reviews across the world. Critics have been quick to pinpoint the overall cohesion of the material in comparison to the sprawling Portal of I. Charles puts it down to the band working closer together on the material and the shorter writing time they put on themselves after spending years working on the debut.
“Portal of I is, for me, a collection of seven short stories which we put together in a way to make a complete album. Each of them makes sense by themselves when you listen to them. Whereas [with] Citadel, because we were writing these things at the same time, ideas started to match up and we decided to put it together in a more unified fashion. So I think this is an album that’s easier to listen to from start to finish, partly because it’s so much shorter, but also because you enjoy it more from start to finish because everything is connected in a lot of ways musically and lyrically, and because it was written in such a short space of time is probably why it turned out that way.”
The next step for the band is the road, beginning with a seven-date Australian tour with Beyond Creation.
“Being on the road and playing live is our reward, jumping on stage to perform these songs and connecting with people in a real intimate way,” Tim Charles says. We’re very excited about having Beyond Creation come out from Canada as well. This will definitely be the biggest headlining tour we’ve ever done and we’re really excited to catch up with all our Australian fans across the country very soon.”
From there, the world beckons and Ne Obliviscaris is heeding the call.
“We’re thinking of going to India, and we’ve just announced a headline show in Tel Aviv in Israel next June on the way to Europe. It’s the extra flexibility that we have due to that money and how to invest it so we can visit as many countries as possible to repay all the people who have contributed, and then also do it in a smart way so we can get money coming back so we don’t end up with none left and can’t continue. We want to use these tours to get some exposure so that we can keep on touring for many years to come.”
Ne Obliviscaris tours this month with Beyond Creation:
21/11: 170 Russell Street, Melbourne VIC
22/11: Unibar, Adelaide SA
26/11: The Basement, Canberra ACT
27/11: Bald Faced Stag Hotel, Sydney NSW
28/11: Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW
29/11: The Brightside, Brisbane QLD
6/12: Amplifier Bar, Perth WA
They will also be appearing at Soundwave:
21/2: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
22/2: Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
28/2: Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney NSW
1/3: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD