Welcome to Day 7 of my Album of the Year 2014 countdown, where I bring you a new album every day (or as close to that as I can) that has impressed me over the past 12 months. And, given the strength of 2014, there’s no let-up in the quality of the albums that I bring you.
If you’ve missed any of the past 6 days or even if you’ve missed any of the past two years’ lists, the links to all of these can be found at the bottom of this post. Please feel free to explore and enjoy!
And now, with that out of the way, let’s concentrate on the Number 14 position:
Season Of Mist
Superlatives get thrown around in music reviews with gay abandon these days it seems. ‘Amazing’ this, ‘awesome’ that; to the point where the sentiment becomes diluted and then, when something genuinely brilliant comes along, it’s hard to do it justice. That feels like the case here with ‘Citadel’, album number two for Australian extreme metallers Ne Obliviscaris. This is a genuinely brilliant but I’m finding it hard to do the album justice in the written form. So why not in the top 10 or higher I hear you ask? The answer is simply because of timing; had this album been released earlier in the year, the chances are it’s magic would have had an even greater effect.
There are a mere six tracks that make up ‘Citadel’ but such is the sheer scope and grandeur on display here, that any thoughts of being short-changed never cross your mind, even when three of them are shorter instrumental pieces. The truth is though, that whilst they may be shorter and act as quieter, more contemplative interludes in between the more extreme material, they are wonderful pieces of music in their own right. Take the opener, ‘Painters Of The Tempest, Pt 1 – Wyrmholes’ for example. It is an intriguing composition dominated by a violent and occasionally slightly discordant lead violin, one of the key components of the Ne Obliviscaris approach. Ably assisted by a piano and some restrained, quiet cinematic sounds, it starts things off in a foreboding and ominous way, without giving away too much about what exactly is to follow.
Part 2 of what is in fact a trilogy of material is a 16-minute plus epic that those aforementioned superlatives just cannot do justice. Words like ‘epic’, ‘sensational’ and ‘majestic’ come to mind as the track ebbs and flows from one breath-taking segment to another. The brutality of death metal duels with quieter, more subtle moments and warp-speed tempos dominated by frenetic double-pedal drumming are juxtaposed by slower, more relaxed and soothing passages where our friend the violin will again make a welcome appearance, creating almost a folky vibe to the music. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, the track is littered with some great prog moments and even more gorgeous melodies. The growled vocals give way to clean singing, the guitars cease their incisive, clinical riffing in favour of a memorable lead break or poignant melody and the violin once again weaves its magic. And the whole composition builds inexorably towards an epic conclusion where the hairs on the back of my neck never fail to stand on end.
The trend has been set and the remainder of the album follows in a similarly complex and mind-blowing manner. The sheer scope of ‘Citadel’ is stunning and I would venture to use the word ‘peerless’. I know not of any other band that manages to create music as ambitious as this but with such apparent ease. The flow throughout the album is very impressive and in spite of the complexity, the compositions do not come across as clunky or awkward; for all its extremity, it’s as smooth as silk, offering up new and exciting subtleties on each and every listen, only adding to the longevity that ‘Citadel’ will undoubtedly provide for months and years to come.
Check out the other posts in this series:
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 20
And if you’re interested, my similar countdowns from previous years can be accessed here: