Portal of I…. To say this album is ‘good’ is a gross understatement; even the word epic has no bearing here. The long awaited album by the critically acclaimed six piece is a heroic compilation of stunning and eloquent proportion and with songs stretching to the eleven minute mark Portal of I pulsates with piercing temperament, flavour and vigour. The music displays the right amount of honey and cruelty for all creatures of sound.
After a 15 month battle with the Australian Immigration Department to bequest their lead guitarist a damn visa, progressive metal band Ne Obliviscaris; once deciphered as Latin for ‘lest we forget,’ have wrapped up their successful Australian tour throughout the months of May and June with the band’s most anticipated album Portal of I.
Fevers, the flu, tours and tikes weren’t enough to keep this journo from chatting with violinists and spotless vocalist of this beast, Tim Charles. I managed to climb out of my mind bending fervor for this prevailing band.
Totally flabbergasted Tim, the album is amazing! How is something like the ‘Portal of I’ even conceived? “Painfully! [Laughs] it was a very long process beginning in 2003, it took three years to get the live performances up to scratch but it was a lot lengthier than we first anticipated. We wrote the music open mindedly, put forward any ideas that we had, if it was good we would try to work it in, try to make it all work. The music is a kaleidoscope of styles, including Latin and flamenco techniques and the challenge we gave ourselves to mesh these styles with a riff of a metal song, we don’t like repetitive formulas so the music is diverse and as a result of all these styles and challenges we created Portal of I”.
How long did it take to not only prepare for an album of this magnitude but write and record? “The writing process was a mixture of intense pleasure and pain, each song was written differently. A band member would have an initial idea, then two to three others would add some things, change some things and by this process we could get to the stage where the rhythm is finished, it took weeks. The final completion being vocals and violin, it took several months to have an end product. The violin was crazy, I generally improvised the violin with the songs whilst we played live however when it was time to record I had to pick and chose a violin verse out of like 4 million that I had made up over the years [Laughs]. We found the common ground but all the different sounds made it all work somehow. Some songs never got finished actually”.
It’s stated that the band underwent quite a lot of calamity before getting to the stage of release – what was the biggest confrontation preparing the album? “To name just one [Laughs] I think the most difficulty we had was probably with Benji (Benjamin Baret - Lead guitar) and getting his Australian Visa, there were so many delays for some reason. I mean the lead guitarist for Ne Obliviscaris is such an important contributor, he was stuck in France for fifty months and I’m like ‘am I getting him back!’ the bands future was undecided, we didn’t even want to entertain the idea of a replacement. The scenario of it all working out kept the band going because we didn’t want to go on without him. Benji wasn’t a founding member of the band but has had a deep impact in the band since inception, he has definitely won his appeal so once it was all sorted we knew we could finally release an album and could make a real go of this”.
What was the bands anticipations or thoughts on taking this idea out to the world? “I guess you can never be 100% sure on anything you release, can’t ever predict opinions yet we were confident it was to be received well. I mean the demo was received really well; it has good memories with fans and the band, the recording and the performances it was a great feeling to have so many fans waiting with as much anticipation for the album as we had”.
The violins! Holy mackerel the violins! Now as the bands violinist – were you classically trained in the violin? What is your background on the instrument? “My background is classically trained in the violin. I started playing the violin at the age of six, so I have been playing for about twenty four years”. Imagine my reaction, I was catching flies “I began the violin in school and progressed to Uni to be trained in classical performance and as a professional classical musician basically. During Uni I met with the band who at the time were a lot heavier, I joined when the band basically first formed. It was strange; I went from a young violinist to orchestra then to a metal band. Even now I still perform the traditional violin and teach of course (that’s my day job) I was happy working in classical music and had always had a taste for heavy metal and now my two separate tastes have formed to create its own life”.
The music on one extreme is technical, complex and dark as hell yet the other extreme is subtle and endearing – explain the process of fusing these two extremes, how did you go about it? “I think in the end…. We don’t think too much about it [Laughs] we try to not consciously think of a beat, we listen to what the story demands and begin with an element to inspire us, we use to think, hmmm maybe we should write a short story but we constantly fail [Laughs] we begin with a riff, we try not to rush ourselves, we plot it out second by second and it just breathes”. Did the band always want to go in this direction? “Sort of, I was the final member of the original lineup of Ne Obliviscaris; maybe they wanted a violinist I mean the earliest vision of the band was so different to where we have ended up. Sort of Black Metal with a classical influence. In the beginning I didn’t sing at all, I do now though - We would always think to ourselves ‘what can we do to make it interesting’ that was very important to us, it’s never one person writing it’s a group effort, each member is interested in the approach to the music and we all simply push it forward and I am truly grateful to be playing alongside these great musicians, the six musicians who try to be the best they can be”.
So! The band have launched the album this year, live shows have the band performing the album the entire fucking way through! How has it been received so far by fans? I can tell you after hearing it, I almost felt guilty for receiving a promotional copy…… almost [Laughs] “We decided a long time ago to play the album from start to finish, it’s actually nice and easy to play the set list as we aren’t having to shave minutes of and ultimately tamper with the song, you know what ‘bits’ to take out. So after we get through the first few songs we know exactly where we are. The tour has been great so far, we love taking this album out to the fans that have waited so patiently and supportively!”.