Marc “Xenoyr” Campbell – Ne Obliviscaris ‘Painters Of The End Test’
“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” – Paul Klee.
The above phrase from the distinguished Swiss-born German artist is conceivably a very significant contributing statement to his expertise in the “expressionism” art-form, among others. This modernist movement’s objective (originally beginning in painting and poetry in Northern Europe) is to present the world purely from a subjective viewpoint, distorting it profoundly for emotional effect in order to conjure moods or ideas.
Marc “Xenoyr” Campbell, harsh vocalist and lyricist for progressive extreme metal band Ne Obliviscaris is driven by the opening quote, possibly to an unconscious level. Xen’s role in the (touring) sextet extends far beyond the words he scribes and howls; his further mediums revolve around the visual aspect. The cover art and film aspect incorporated with the (mostly) Victorian outfit to a large degree fall in his imaginative hands and with the group’s latest album Exul, the artist has gone above and beyond in all of his portrayals. Especially with the film clip for the single ‘Equus’ which was inspired by the devastating Australian bushfires during the summer of 2019 to 2020; Marc artistically deciphered the movie to be an interpretative ballet theatre piece with absolutely thought-provoking and astonishing imagery. As he explains from the comforts of his home:
“With the bushfires, I was trying to work out a way to kind of create the imagery and message with the song, because overall, it is ultimately about the living being displaced from their natural environment. This is partially due to mankind’s involvement and the repercussions from that.” Mr Campell illustrates with an inspired and zealous manner – “First and foremost I am an animal person, I prefer the company of animals. So that event affected me quite a lot. So at the end of 2019 to the beginning of 2020, I started to write my cues down and develop that. Because the music itself, most of it was written prior to that, so the emotion that was drawn from that seemed to sync up with me and what I wanted to make visible.
“In terms of the videos, I’d always been interested in dance. I respect any sort of dance, I always have and especially ballet. Truthfully, I’d always wanted to incorporate dance into a metal video and there hadn’t been many around that I was aware of. There might be a few bands that have incorporated some sort of dance, but it’s not something that’s, I guess, very prominent. I find ballet is very expressive dance, there’s a lot of strength in it but there’s also a lot for fragility. I wanted that kind of implemented to help the song in itself, because it is very beautiful too. It has a lot of tenseness to it, but also a lot of sadness. So I think ballet ultimately was the perfect dance for that.”
The film exhibits a rather darkened and smoke-filled atmosphere, flashing red lights, flames, native flora burning and then a graceful entrancing ballet rendition performed by dancer Naomi Stienstra representing Mother Earth and the devastation this disaster has had on our homes and wildlife. The exhilarating display is flawlessly enhanced by the extreme progressive metal nature of Ne Obliviscaris, which alternates between tender string section orchestral delivery and serenades via Tim Charles (clean vocals, Violin, Viola & Keyboards), to the harsh screamed vocals of Xen and ferocious metallic fury that would impress 2000s era Opeth. In all sincerity, this isn’t a “music video”, it is an authentic cinema piece.
“It was basically created by myself and Dave Hunter, who is the drummer for Circles (Melbourne progressive metal band). He filmed and edited it, I did everything else. When you see how many credits music videos have, I now understand why they have so much involved.” Marc says laughing with a slight grain of salt in his description – “This is where I am lucky though, the rest of the band allow me the freedom to take control of that creative side. Because that is something I’m very passionate about and the rest the guys trust me in that. They have a little input, but at the same time, for the most part, they leave me to my devices and to do what I want, within a logic. I think the video came out great for the amount of time and money we were able to use for it, which wasn’t much, but if you’re creative enough, you can make a lot of things work. I definitely think it’s an upgrade for us and I’m happy that we created something that translates and means so much. The feedback has been really great and our message has translated really well.”
After what may have arguably been the most difficult recording process for a metal band in history, NeO have finally unleashed their six track blockbuster that is Exul upon the world. A 52 minute voyage that at times has the tranquillity of the coral reefs found in The Maldives, to the savage volcanic explosion of Mount Sinabung in Indonesia, on the other end of the spectrum. Unbelievably, the recording of the drums for the LP began way back in March 2020, a significant date as this was to be the beginning of a worldwide lockdown. Percussionist at the time, Daniel Presland laid down his tracks in Nashville with producer Mark Lewis (Coal Chamber, Whitechapel) and made it home to Australia mere hours before the globe became stationary, to an extent. Lewis, guitarist Benjamin Baret and bassist Martino Garattoni were due to land in Australia in the days that followed to continue tracking, but were forced to remain overseas indefinitely. As is common knowledge now, recording studios were then shut throughout Melbourne and what ensued was a tedious and life-changing two-year undertaking to complete full-length number four.
“It was a very trying time, but we got there, in the end. I think we released Urn five and a half years ago? That is kind of sad. But at the same time, I think the time was maybe needed. Obviously, if the pandemic wasn’t there, then we probably would have released it within a shorter time-frame, I think potentially we wanted to release it at the end of 2020.”
Did the obstacles ever become too much? Was there a point where Ne Obliviscaris considered abandoning it all?
“No. Surprisingly I’ve most probably been the most optimistic. I founded the band in 2003, this year is our 20th anniversary. And I was the first to start the band and I’ll be the last person standing. I don’t plan to quit. So for me, it was always trying to get everything moving forward. You know, for me personally, the pandemic didn’t really bother me too much. I didn’t have a problem with it and that’s because I spend most of the time by myself anyway. I get lost in all creative things that I love; the other guys went through a lot though.” Mr Campbell admits with a loving attitude – “When you’re in a band, you have to be respectful. Of course, everyone deals with different circumstances in different ways. But to make a band, a cohesive and functional unit, you need to be aware of everyone and you need to be understanding towards the others and put yourself in their position. So it’s all about patience and understanding.
Xen continues – “We haven’t lasted, or the band wouldn’t been here for 20 years without patience. At the end of the day, we still had a goal in mind, the album was recorded across nine studios and five countries. Which sounds completely ridiculous, it was frustrating for me, for us. Ultimately, for Tim (Charles) and for myself, we couldn’t record our vocals in one segment of time, it was all spread out because of lockdowns and constant changes; I think Tim’s alone was recorded across three studios and took up to two years. It was an amazing effort.”
Were there any benefits with the delays?
“It allowed us time to reflect and improve the songs during these intervals which really paid off. If it wasn’t for our producer Mark Lewis, who has mixed and mastered a lot of our previous work, but this time he stepped up to producer, we wouldn’t have such an incredible album now. His communication with us for years was remarkable, seeing it being released finally is going to be quite the cathartic experience.”
And with the release of Exul, this astonishing musical art is now surpassing visible.
Interview by Will Oakeshott @TeenWolfWill
Stream Exul here
Ne Obliviscaris tracklisting:
2. Misericorde I – As the Flesh Falls
3. Misericorde II – Anatomy of Quiescence