Violin solos aren’t too common in heavy metal, but Ne Obliviscaris know when to bring the noise, and when to mix gentler sounds into their music. That hard-soft contrast is used to soaring effect by the Australian band, who’ll make their third appearance in Hong Kong tonight, performing at TTN with local acts INDenial and Synergy.
Usually, during the quieter moments at gigs, Ne Obliviscaris fans will take a moment to catch their breath in between headbanging and jumping around to heavy riffs. But, as the band has discovered, this isn’t the case when they perform in Hong Kong, where there’s no let-up to the crowd’s high-energy antics.
“We saw crowd-surfing even during our quiet songs! There aren’t many places we’ll have that sort of reaction,” said singer Xenoyr (aka Marc Campbell), speaking over the phone from his native Melbourne in Australia last week. “We all remember our first time in Hong Kong as one of the craziest shows we’ve ever played. We’ll always keep coming back.”
Known for their intricate and tempo-shifting songs with mystical themes, Ne Obliviscaris, whose name means “never forget” in Latin, bring a complexity to metal that makes them stand out. Though they’ve lasted 16 years through three albums, they haven’t had the smoothest ride. For a start, an ever-evolving line-up has meant a total of 13 musicians have been with the group; Xenoyr, who performs growled vocals, is the only one who has been with the band since day one.
In an age when streaming and illegal downloads eclipses paying for music, it is notoriously hard to make money as an artist. Selling gig tickets and merchandise is an important source of income, but organising tours often leaves performers in debt.
In 2014, Ne Obliviscaris used crowdfunding to raise money for their world tour, which allowed them to play Hong Kong for a second time as well as Europe, the US, and India. Two years later, they launched a subscription-based fan club on Patreon to try to earn at least the Australian minimum wage and combat “a system where only the biggest of the big bands are able to make a living”, they said.
Many applauded the band for exploring new ways to sustain their art, while critics accused them of cheating by asking for donations. In a post defending their decision, clean vocalist and violinist Tim Charles highlighted the “brutal reality of the music industry” and said that: “Rather than accept our fate as a mid-level band destined to not make a dollar we have decided to take the initiative to change the course of our future for the better, and it is working already.”
Patreon is an important source of income for many artists thanks, in part, to bands like Ne Obliviscaris. Through Patreon, the band earns the equivalent of HK$67,000 per month, which allows the six to focus on their music.
“We’ve been able to tour the world multiple times based on support from Patreon and crowdfunding,” Xenoyr said. “Now, bands are asking for advice on how to start their own Patreon. Most musicians are stuck in nine-to-five jobs and struggle to get anywhere. We’d love to see more people doing what they love.”
After Asia this month, the band will go on to perform in the US and Europe, before working on their fourth album for release early next year. The singer is especially excited to record with new bassist Martino Garattoni, who has made live shows “a lot more fun”.
“There’s more of a family vibe now than we’ve ever had,” stated Xenoyr. “He fits in perfectly. It’s almost too good, we’re very happy.”
After their 2017 record Urn, an odyssey of mystical set pieces made up of heavy guitar and hypnotic melodies, the follow-up will be in a characteristically theatrical vein – though Xenoyr is leaving some mystery for later. “All our songs will still be journeys,” he said. Tickets are HK$350 here.
Other metal gigs to look out for this month:
March 6: The Week (Rain in Time, The Priceless Boat, Parallel Horizons, The Ancient Mental) @ TTN
March 9: Instinct of Sight @ EMax
March 9: Rudra, supported by Two-Finger Salute and Cryogenic Defilement @ Mon Livehouse
March 23: Dark Mirror Ov Tragedy, supported by Human Betrayer @ Mom Livehouse
March 26: Emmure @ TTN