** Ne Obliviscaris may have a mouthful of a band name and their music may be at the mad end of progressive, but there’s something alluring about the Aussies’ approach. Every song is a labyrinth, begging to be figured out at every turn. We flew down to Australia via digital highways to catch bassist Brendan Brown a fortnight away from Ne Obliviscaris’ stateside release of Citadel. Let’s not forget we have Citadel streaming in full after the Q&A.
There’s a lot going on musically in Ne Obliviscaris. Do you ever think to yourselves? Let’s simplify this a little?
Brendan Brown: We don’t think about the music much at all in the initial stages. We just write whatever comes naturally to us. We never sit down and say to each other: “let’s write a long complex song.” Someone comes into the room with a riff or a few sections and we just jam it out. So in a way it is simple to us and natural. Music should never be forced out. Music is a language and this is how we communicate with one another, and like with any language we have become more fluent at it as the years go on. There is a lot to be expressed by 6 members. So to an outside observer it may appear as a busy six-way conversation, but in our world it is just us being ourselves and having a hearty chat.
Ne Obliviscaris means something like “do not forget”. What do you want fans to remember about Ne Obliviscaris? Obviously, the song titles on Citadel aren’t too easy to remember. (Just kidding. Kind of)
Brendan Brown: I would like fans to feel the same emotion that we do when listening to the songs. Experience the same journey and connect with the ebb and flow of the music as we do when we are writing or rehearsing. We often get messages from fans that state just that. Some fans tell us our music changed their lives and gave them a clear new path in life. To us, that is the highest praise possible. As for the song names, you mentioned earlier that our music is also complex, so I guess that means maybe we are a “thought provoking” band. Cryptic lyrics and song titles that people could dig deep to find the meaning of. Our vocalist Xen takes control of all the lyrics and imagery, and likes for people to make their own interpretations.
There are a lot of “play-through” videos of the band on YouTube. Was that more about marketing or trying to say, “Yeah, we can actually play this crazy stuff”?
Brendan Brown: A bit of both. Anyone that has seen us live knows we can play the songs. We wouldn’t write something that was out of our musical ability. We often get messages from fans asking us for tabs or play-throughs, or even statements on YouTube on our songs saying “there’s no way Dan’s kick drums are real”. It’s just ludicrous… [Laughs] For me personally there were a couple of bass covers appearing on YouTube that were quite incorrect, so I uploaded my own video so people could get an idea of what I was playing because the bass is generally not as prominent in the mix as other instruments. (This was before the tab books were released to the public.)
Were you ready for the response? Kids kind of lost their minds, really.
Brendan Brown: The response to all NeO releases has been very overwhelming. From our very first gig, to our very first demo, fans have always been very vocal about their support and how they feel towards the band. It’s always a great feeling to hear such passionate words come from our fans. Ultimately we write music for ourselves. When we formed as a band we never said “I hope people like this” we just had fun meeting up every week and writing endless music. So we try to not be too concerned what other people think. As long as we are happy with our creation then we were confident our fans would enjoy it too. To us Citadel is just a natural progression of Portal of I. It still has similar characteristics as the previous album, but it is more refined, and a higher level of musicianship. We had three years to improve on our instruments and the music is a reflection of that journey.
What were your primary goals, musically and personally, going into Citadel?
Brendan Brown: Our primary goal was to write something we were proud of. Some things get scrapped. Some sections lead to dead end roads. Generally we just want to create something that flows and is enjoyable to us. Personally I just want to be the best bass player and composer that I can be, always learning and expanding my craft. I believe we are all on the same page there and writing for album number 3 has already begun. There is no shortage of ideas between 6 members.
Anything you didn’t want to repeat from Portal of I? Lessons learned kind of stuff.
Brendan Brown: Just to be more productive and proficient in the studio. Portal of I was a huge challenge and it consumed a lot of time in the studio, which lead to a costly production. This time around we knew what to expect. Plus we all have our own little recording setups at home, so there was lots of pre-production and experience gained in a recording environment. This lead to a more efficient use of studio time, and ensuring we got the best performances from ourselves
I’m curious where the violin melodies come from? Some of them sound like they were plucked from an Erhu player, while others feel almost Bohemian (Czech).
Brendan Brown: Tim is influenced by a broad range of genres, and I think that comes across even more evidently on Citadel with his violin playing. The influences of all members in the band are so varied it can be difficult to pinpoint where the idea stems from. It’s like getting all the music you’ve ever heard thrown in to a pot and then trying to bring out your own unique recipe. Most of my bass lines are funky. But I mainly listen to brutal death metal. Work that one out!
There’s a lot of quality progressive metal coming out of Australia in recent years. What do you attribute that to, if you have a sense?
Brendan Brown: I’m not entirely sure. Progressive music is very broad in terms. You can be progressive rock, or progressive extreme metal. Prog is an all encompassing term. Breaking away from generic music compositions and structures and implementing more worldly sounds, complex rhythms and time signatures. Metal is forever changing and expanding. Australia has an awesome death metal scene; I guess it’s only natural to have a prospective Progressive scene riding along side, and Black Metal scene for that matter. There are tons of very talented people in this country as a whole, regardless of genre. We just love music and arts.
If there’s a focus track on Citadel, which track is that and why?
Brendan Brown: I would like to think “Painters of the Tempest” is the body of the album. It’s our longest and most involved song. It is an emotional journey and contains so many colors and movements. It is our masterpiece. We are all so proud of it and it definitely brings out the best of our abilities. A true showcase of our 10 year journey to its inception.
** Ne Obliviscaris’ new album, Citadel, is out November 11th on Season of Mist Records. The album is available for U.S. pre-order HERE. If your blood bleeds complex, mind-bending metal, you owe to yourself to pick up Citadel, if even you can’t pronounce the band name.