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Live Review: Ne Obliviscaris, The Ocean, I Built The Sky

28 November 2016 | 4:23 pm | Rod Whitfield

"This band has evolved into a truly unique entity in world heavy music."

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Australia is a veritable treasure trove for the lover of progressive instrumental music right now, young prodigy Rohan Stevenson (aka I Built The Sky) included. I Built The Sky draw heavily from their debut album The Sky Is Not The Limit tonight, and take a slightly more minimalist approach to this artform, relative to many of its other exponents anyway. The compositions are more open and expansive, and are based mostly on fat grooves that allow everything to breathe. Plus, the band is a stripped-back three-piece but man, do they make a hell of a classy racket! The rhythm section is tight and ridiculously accomplished, with Stevenson's tastefully blistering fretboard histrionics soaring over the top.

Germany's The Ocean enter to a somewhat low-key intro, with frontman Loic Rossetti standing back behind one of the guitarists. The band soon explode, however, and Rossetti is in a crowd-surfing frenzy by the third song. This band's sound is more about the layering and the building of tension into massive crescendos rather than relentless, full-frontal assaults. The atmospherics created by new cellist Dalai Theofilopoulou are truly eerie at times. But when they get heavy, they get heavy (especially during doomy, stomping closer Benthic: The Origin Of Our Wishes), and their set this night is an idiosyncratic powerhouse, full of light and shade in equal measure. A vocal guest appearance by triple j's resident metalhead Lochlan Watt during Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance is another highlight.

The reception for Melbourne's mighty Ne Obliviscaris is that reserved for returning hometown heroes - which is essentially what they are. Violinist, clean vocalist and co-founding member Tim Charles isn't waiting 'til the third song, he is surfing the adoring crowd in the opener's intro. Charles' fiddle is a dramatic and dynamic counterpoint to the band's whirling, swirling maelstrom of sound. Obviously it adds an orchestral touch, but at times it gives a Celtic folk feel to the most extreme of extreme metal, which simply should not work. But it does. Dirty vocalist Xenoyr is a unique combination of androgyny and toughness, and his howls are bloodcurdlingly banshee-like. And Dan Presland's drums are thoroughly dominant. He plays with such power, dexterity and facility, thundering around the toms at every opportunity, and every snare hit is like a cannon blast.

When NeO fans call out for "one more song!" after the set proper, one can only assume that they know exactly what they're getting. In this instance, it's Painters Of The Tempest, parts I and II, and this ensures that the encore actually winds out to around the 20-minute mark.

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This band has evolved into a truly unique entity in world heavy music. And watching NeO also makes you realise just how far heavy metal has come, technically and compositionally, since its embryonic years in the late '60s.