When I first stumbled across to And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope about a year ago, I thought my head exploded. It was a song I had never heard before: it started with flamenco theme, then changed to progressive death metal, then the most impressive violin I've heard in metal took over again and it finished with progressive black metal. I googled these guys immediately and what do you know: Melbourne, Australia strikes again! I became so obsessed with Ne Obliviscaris that it didn't take long until I had their debut album, Portal Of I, in my hands. NeO had released their self-released demo in 2007 where Tapestry of the Starless Abstract, Forget Not and As Icicles Fall were present already, but they have been rearranged and recomposed for Portal Of I along with four completely new songs. The overall running time is more than 71 minutes and the shortest clocks just under six minutes
Portal Of I features some of the most imaginative, talented, epic and complex songwriting I have heard in a long, long time. What strikes me the most is that the violin is as important as the guitar, bass or drums which is extraordinary to me. It hasn't just been mixed in, on the contrary the arrangements have been built around the violin. It is quite clear that this album is not for everyone cause it requires your full attention to understand all the hooks, breaks, interludes and transitions. There are five songs which are over 10 minutes long, so these guys don't let you go easy. For me that is the beauty of this album: you will always find new perspectives and angles and I can guarantee it is not monotonous, simple or boring. Lineup consists of six young lads with two vocalists, Xenoyr responsible for harsh vocals and the brilliant violinist Tim Charles doing the clean vocals. NeO manages to exploit this duality extremely well and the contrast works very well. On emotional level I feel the vocals are better than on technical. That is only a minor flaw and as these dudes are only in their late 20's and can only improve over the years.
This was my album of the year in the fall 2012, but there were a couple of others I was waiting to be released before my final judgement. I thought it was a wise choice to linger with my final verdict and with songs like Xenoflux, And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope and Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise, Portal Of I is my Album Of The Year with flying colors. The creativity, songwriting and musicianship really blows me away and I have to give credit where it is due. Sometimes I still cannot believe this is only their debut album. On the other hand, if I would have missed out these guys I would have been super pissed. The album in its entirety is so strong, ambitious and different that looking back now it feels like I never really had a choice.
Now if only I could witness Ne Obliviscaris and Be'lakor together...that doesn't even have to be a dream, it has already happened in Australia. Hot damn, I have to start saving money again for my Tour Australia & New Zealand.