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Friday 7th October 2016
Rebellion in Manchester, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Main support on Ne Obliviscaris' short run of UK shows are Oceans of Slumber from Houston, Texas. Unleashing their sophomore album, 'Winter', earlier this year, which was their first full-length work to feature vocalist Cammie Gilbert following her inauguration into the band's recorded output for 2015's predominantly covers EP, 'Blue', I declared said release an unmitigated masterpiece. Characterised by sublimely textured atmospheres and a sincerely conceived emotional profundity, this diversely innovative, yet wholly accessible, album epitomised the essence and mindset of a genuinely progressive band. For that's precisely what Oceans of Slumber are - genuinely, rather than generically, progressive. And with Cammie's vocals colouring the compositions with power, grace, sultriness, fragility, and heightening the music's emotional impact over every bar of music she sings, it was like discovering Anneke van Giersbergen all over again. But, of course, a band's studio offerings and live performances are two different beasts entirely. Sure, 'Winter' is a masterpiece (at least to my ears), but how would songs translate in a live setting?

Hitting the stage at 8:15pm to an already largish gathering in Manchester's Rebellion, Oceans of Slumber commence their 45 minute set with the new album's title track, and I'm immediately overcome with a sense of relief, bliss, satisfaction and a natural rush of emotional nourishment. 'Winter' sounds phenomenal this evening and, transcending the evidently flawless execution of the song, each of the musicians in the band succeed in injecting their individual performances and collective musical prowess with heightened affective intensities. And that's true of their entire set tonight, through airings of 'Sunlight', 'Suffer the Last Bridge', 'Devout', 'Apologue', and even a diversion into cover territory with a cut from Type O Negative's seminal work, 'October Rust'. Everything is loaded with so much emotional sincerity, and far more emphatically so than in songs' recorded counterparts; it's simply breathtaking to experience such an impassioned performance. Be it the heavy kick of 'Apologue', the sultry lushness of melodies in 'Sunlight', or the more up-tempo impetus of 'Suffer the Last Bridge', this is not merely a masterclass in musicality; this is an aesthetically beautified experience. And with drummer Dobber Beverly's sporadicity of additional, inventive fills during some passages of music, I get the impression he's riffing off the emotions of the moment, adding to the uniqueness of tonight's performance.

And, just when I think it can't get any more emotionally intoxicating, Oceans of Slumber somehow succeed in turning up the sublimity levels a few notches during closing number, '...This Road'. For the opening three or so minutes of the song, Dobber takes up position behind keyboards and guitarist Sean Gary temporarily abandons his instrument to sit behind the kit. Seems these guys are multi-instrumentalists, too! The song's beautiful keys intro is played wonderfully, which is soon adorned with Cammie's transcendently heartfelt vocals. And this is where Oceans of Slumber truly get me, with their fittingly fervour-induced finale. When music can transport you to a place where everything suddenly feels fine in the world; when you get lost in the moment through feeling at one with the artistry; when you have a tear in your eye because you become overwhelmed with such beauty in art... that's catharsis right there - the first time in quite a while I've had such an experience at a gig. And I have Cammie's vocals on '...This Road' to endlessly thank for this moment. Beautiful. Truly beautiful.

With a big crowd witnessing their set and a big response that seems to become increasingly more enthusiastic as Oceans of Slumber's set progresses, they would undoubtedly have gained many new fans after tonight's majestic performance. And, deservedly so, for music performed this beautifully and with the emotionally raw intensity just witnessed on Rebellion's stage, is rare.
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Ne Obliviscaris at Rebellion in Manchester, UK, 7th October 2016
Photograph copyright 2016 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
An already busy Rebellion seems to get more and more crowded as the time draws near for tonight's headliners. And, by the time Australia's Ne Obliviscaris appear on stage, the club is fairly rammed. Last seen on these shores as main support on Cradle of Filth's UK tour, it seems these Aussies have built up something of an enthusiastic following in this country. I'm simultaneously both surprised and not surprised - the former because the progressive musical complexity of bands like Ne Obliviscaris all too often struggles to find a wider audience beyond its niche market in the UK, and the latter because... well, the music on both their two albums to date is simply brilliant. And, it becomes immediately evident on Rebellion's stage this evening that this bunch of antipodean metallers are equally fantastic through their live performance.

Through airings of such tracks as 'Tapestry of the Starless Abstract'; 'Pyrrhic'; 'Devour Me, Colossus (Part I): Blackholes'; 'Painters of the Tempest (Part II): Triptych Lux'; and 'And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope', Ne Obliviscaris are one of those rare bands that succeed in balancing out technical musicianship (their music literally shits virtuosity in each and every bar of music), with an awareness of the emotional essence of their compositions. Sure, there are parts where the technical aspect of their playing perhaps dominates a little too much, but this serves to make for excitingly wild contrasts between the more cacophonically extreme parts of their songs and the euphonically melodic passages that contrapose these. However, while they generally have a great sound through the PA tonight, as is the nature of live music at the more extreme end of the metal spectrum, instrumentations during the blast-beat led passages in Ne Obliviscaris' songs blur into indecipherable crescendos, even with familiarity with the material. For me, though, the band's material has even more impact and invigoratingly realised contrasts because of this, which makes their lengthy compositions feel like even more of an emotionally-charged journey.

Performance-wise, each band member shines, although it must be said that violinist/clean vocalist Tim Charles appears to be the heart and soul of Ne Obliviscaris... at least in terms of their live performance. Looking the most comfortable of all members on stage tonight, he smiles his way through most of the set, seemingly enjoying every second. And his work on the violin is astounding in how he manages to play parts so well while thrashing around. No easy feat, I'm sure. Growler Xen also impresses with his incisively performed death voice... in fact, the entire band are a consummate force in their collective performance. While they offer little space for cathartically-induced experience la Oceans of Slumber, their music is still an invigoratingly enjoyable assault on the senses.

The large audience here to experience Ne Obliviscaris' virtuosity first-hand engage in much headbanging throughout the night and with the occasional jig. It's a good-natured, friendly audience that seem to entirely eschew intense mosh pit action - rather refreshing, it must be said, for music that hits extremity levels in so many parts. But, extreme metal is only one part of Ne Obliviscaris' oeuvre. And what's been most encouraging about this evening is such a large turnout for what is, in essence, genuinely progressive, diversified art. All in all, a mightily impressive set from an ber talented band.
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