Saturday, July 30, 2016

Concert Review: Ne Obliviscaris - Gramercy Theater, NY

Greetings reader! (Yeah, I'm not bullshitting myself about our readership numbers, but fuck it, this is pretty fun to do.) This is going to be my first concert review post, as it's also the first time I've been to a show that I really cared about since Greg and I started this thing.

Anyway, a few days ago I got to see Ne Obliviscaris on their first headlining North American tour at Gramercy Theater in New York City, thereby removing them from my concert bucket list. This is a particularly big deal for this band as

1) they're from Australia, so getting to the US for a major tour in the first place is a pretty big deal. In fact, it's a huge financial burden for the band to get anywhere from Australia, particularly with all the gear they need.

2) they've only released two albums to date. Tim Charles was quoted as saying that he feels like the band "is 18 months ahead" of where he thought they'd be with such an early headlining tour.

So how does a 2-album band with only one prior North American tour (supporting Cradle of Filth, at which point they were third on the bill) jump to a headlining tour of their own? The answer is crowdfunding. Ne Obliviscaris uses Patreon as a way to interface directly with their fans, and are currently mostly supported by the money they raise online. Of course, only time will tell if this bold strategy pays off. I, for one, hope it does, and will likely be joining it at the $5/month level (for all the joy this band has given me so far, I think $60/year is well worth it). You can read up on the whole experiment and their reasoning at the above link; along with seeing some brutal honesty about their financial situation. So there's the background information. Let's move on to the show.

Holy shit.

I've a lot to say, but I'll start with the musicianship of this band. It's one thing to listen to it on their albums and EPs. It's another thing entirely to see it all replicated right in front of you. To perfection. Ne Obliviscaris excels at both the technical aspects of playing their instruments and the overall composition of their music, and this is only emphasized when you see them live. All instruments were distinguishable and clear, vocals were at just the right level for both harsh and clean, and the violin came through without a hitch.

Credit where credit is due, also; the sound folks at Gramercy Theater clearly know their shit. The mixing was completely spot on. At any given point during the performance, you could hear everything that was going on. My initial fears that the sound levels would be an issue as they are at so many other venues with so many other bands (often over-doing the low end of the sound spectrum so 90% of what you're hearing is the drummer's pedalwork). But here, you could pick out any particular instrument and just follow it along, if you so chose. Or you could just enjoy the entirety of the songs they chose to play, which brings me to my next point.

The setlist was incredibly well chosen. Because this is Ne Obliviscaris, of course, they only played 6 songs. But considering the average length of (the album versions of) these songs is roughly 11 minutes apiece, that's a hell of a lot of music. The songs were very high energy with enough changes of pace and time signature and overall volume that you never tired of the faster, louder sections. Plus they gave you a nice break from headbanging and moshing. I'm not kidding about this one; a full 24 hours later and my neck is sore as fuck. I won't talk about any of the songs played because I don't want to spoil the setlist in case anyone who reads this has yet to go to the show, but I will say that they played my favorite song, and it's apparently one of the band's favorites to play live (quoth Tim Charles once again).

Finally, the last positive thing I need to say about Ne Obliviscaris is how amazingly gracious everyone in this band is. I mean, I still haven't met a metal band that is unfriendly (I've chatted with the guys in Insomnium after shows quite a few times now, and Christopher Bowes of Alestorm is super nice), but these fellas take it to a whole other level. I think a big part of this is knowing how much their success depends upon the fans who support them via Patreon and attending concerts and buying merch (I shamelessly dropped about $80 on stuff from their booth. Hey, whatever brings them back to the US!) But apart from the hanging around the merch table and talking to anyone, shaking hands, and signing things, they specifically took the time during the set to talk about where the funding for their tour came from and thank everyone who made it possible. While yes, a lot of bands will thank the fans and all that, you could tell this was particularly heartfelt.

If, however, you're the type that likes a great stage show, look elsewhere. Ne Obliviscaris cuts out all frills and just plays the music. This is 100% fine by me, as I listen to them specifically for the music. Also it was a small stage, so there really wasn't much room for them to do anything fancy anyhow. But I know many folks love a good on-stage performance, and many metal bands exist almost solely for this purpose, so I thought it would be worth mentioning just in case you're one of those metalheads. But I'm also one of those people that goes to the symphony, so I'm okay with just listening to the music and watching it be created right in front of me.

In short, this may well be one of the best shows I've seen on many levels (and that's saying quite a bit; there's some heavy competition). Highly, highly recommend seeing these guys on tour if you ever get the chance. There's a good chance they'll be returning after their next album, probably to be released sometime next year according to the band, so fear not; you're not missing your only chance to witness the glory of Ne Obliviscaris.

Also, it is SO not fair that their upcoming European tour is with Enslaved. I would punch a baby (one that I don't know, of course) to be at one of those shows.

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