“You shouldn’t be doing it for the money, because if anyone is playing heavy metal for money, they’re a fucking idiot.” Wise words and sage advice, however direct, should always be heeded.
Tim Charles is the vocalist and violin player in Melbourne’s Ne Obliviscaris and it’s fair to say, his cohort has managed to overcome more than just a few obstacles leading up to their studio album, Urn, which was released late last year.
“The reality is that there isn’t really much money in it. What we’re trying to do isn’t to get rich, we’re just trying to make a basic wage. If we got to the stage where we’re making a basic, half-decent, average full-time wage, that would extraordinary and would be more than enough.”
Charles’ statements about cash allude to the long-associated pitfalls of ensuring a band is financially viable. How many metal bands have released a promising demo or debut album only to disappear?
What is it that separated Ne O (as they’re conversationally known) from any other promising heavy metal start-up? Part of the answer is found in the band’s willingness to adapt to the digital economy. Reams of copy abound discussing Ne O’s successful Patreon campaign so Charles offers a choice statement summarising the philosophy behind embracing the platform.
“The [Patreon campaign] is a place where we can deal in a very honest and direct way with our fans. [We’re] basically making a commitment that if you support us we’ll guarantee to give you stuff in return, like tours and albums more regularly than we’d be able to otherwise. We’re very humbled and grateful to have so many fans that support us in such a big way that it has made a big impact on our lives.”
Ne O demonstrated that a key factor in determining their success could at least partially be attributed to an e-commerce model; however that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Trial and tribulation abound, yet it’s important to note that at no stage in the discussion with Charles did he sound anything less than matter of fact or enthusiastic.
“It’s definitely been a long, difficult road at times. Sometimes it felt like it was two steps forward, two steps back, and you’re back in the same spot trying to get things happening. [There were] a lot of difficulties we had to face. Benji [Baret, lead guitar] got deported back in 2009 and the band was on hold for a year and a half. There were so many times we almost broke up in those first nine years and it was so close to not getting to the release of Portal of I, our debut album. Thankfully ever since that moment, everything has really changed around, and each year has been significantly better than the last.”
Urn really does confirm that Ne O are a significant collective contributing high-quality sounds to the global metal community. They also happen to be another great band imbued with the DNA of the metal founded by heavy metal’s patron saint, Chuck Schuldiner (Death, Control Denied).
Cynic are the heralded progressive metal and technical death metal iconoclasts whose core membership at one stage recorded with Schuldiner. Former Cynic bassist Robin Zielhorst was recruited to record the bass tracks on Urn before the introduction of bass shredder Martino Garattoni. Charles is positively enthused when talking about working in the studio with Zielhorst.
“Robin was absolutely amazing. What we had in Robin was a bassist that was stylistically not that different from what were used to, but at the same time extremely technically capable. There were so many things that he bought forward that were exactly what were after.”
Overall Urn is an album that has captured the imagination of fans at home and abroad. It’s a study in the balance of brutality, harmony and remarkable musicianship. Understandably, Charles is keen for fans to hear the album cuts in the live arena.
“The response to our new album has been absolutely amazing, we’re so excited to be coming back home and getting a chance to perform these songs for our Australian fans.”