Words – Clare
Photos – Mitch

We headed to The Forum on Saturday night to make it for doors open at 6.30pm. Neo had finally returned to Melbourne to perform in a headlining tour bringing with them the band from Pennsylvanian who joined them on their last Australian tour, Rivers Of Nihil, and The Ocean who came from Germany. Metal nerds rejoiced as the night was a figurative feast of progressive metal delights.

Just as they did for the last NeO tour, Rivers Of Nihil performed as the opening act, and just like last time, they did not disappoint! But unlike the last tour, we saw them for the first time with their new lineup. Rivers parted ways with both vocalist Jake Dieffenbach and guitarist Jon Topore in 2022, so ex-Black Crown Initiate guitarist and vocalist Andy Thomas joined them as their newest member and Adam Biggs stepped into the role of frontman.


They all casually moseyed on stage as the eager fans applauded in anticipation. They launched straight in with the track ‘The Silent Life’ from the very successful 2018 album release ‘Where Owls Know My Name’. Members of the crowd continued to move closer and closer to the stage like objects trapped in a magnetic field. They continued with ‘Sand Baptism’ from ‘Monarchy’ and ‘Clean’ from the 2021 album release ‘The Work’ while the pit was illuminated by flashlights from the participating crowd members. Also from ‘The Work’ was the tracks ‘The Void from Which No Sound Escapes’ and ‘Episode’. This set was filled with plenty of heavy, thick, unrelenting drums and some beautiful guitar breakdowns performed by one of EM’s all-time favourite guitarists, Brody Uttley. We also got to hear one of their newest tracks ‘The Sub-Orbital Blues’ which was released earlier this year. To close out the groovy set was the track ‘Where Owls Know My Name’.


This was our first time seeing ‘The Ocean’ so we weren’t sure what to expect from this 5 piece band from Germany. Dreamy smoke billowed through streams of light coupled by an equally dreamy guitar intro. Heavy base lines followed that were so thick I could feel them in the soles of my feet through the floor. Already it was a super atmospheric set. The lead singer Loïc Rossetti engaged the crowd as the opening track ‘Triassic’ from their 2020 album release ‘Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic / Cenozoic’ started to amp up, and all the members performed with a lot of energy which matched the strobe lights that shot out into the crowd. During the second track ‘Silurian: Age of Sea Scorpions’ all you saw were the dark silhouettes of the band members set inside a luminous orange smoke that moved across the stage. it felt like we were set in the perimeters of a wildfire which coupled well with the perfectly moody track. At this point, the lead vocalist entered into the thick of the pit and rose up above the crowd as he was lifted by the fans. To follow were tracks ‘Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses’ and ‘Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams’ from their 6th studio album ‘Pelagial’. The elegant sound layering and impressive vocals continued with tracks ‘Subboreal’ from their newest album and ‘Pleistocene’. The set concluded with track ‘Jurassic | Cretaceous’.


It was 9pm, so not long until the headlining act Ne Obliviscaris aka ‘NeO’. The crowd was already warmed up and in a good mood due to the powerhouse performances of ‘Rivers Of Nihil’ and ‘The Ocean’. The venue was blanketed in darkness but the band was yet to begin, and then a guitar sounded, and the stage filled with lush pink and purple lights. ‘Melbourne, let me hear you! Let me hear you make some noise!’. We heard the sound of a violin followed by growling vocals, the opening track was ‘Intra Venus’ from the 2017 album release ‘Urn’. Seeing as it had been a while since NeO played in their home town they were all super excited to not only be performing here again but to be performing at The Forum, one of the most notorious music venues in Melbourne. Special guests were invited onto the stage for the next track, a trio of string musicians, one of which was Emma, the sister of violinist and vocalist Tim Charles.


From their newest album ‘Exul’ released earlier this year they played ‘Equus’ while spirals of light danced across the walls and shadows cast by the scaffolding flickered violently on the starlit ceiling. They continued with ‘Misericorde I – As the Flesh Falls’ and all of a sudden, pyrotechnic sparklers rained down from above showering the front of the stage, followed by ‘Misericorde II – Anatomy of Quiescence’. The next track, also from ‘Urn’, was ‘Libera (Part 1): Saturnine Spheres’ which showcased their tremendous talent. The room mellowed slightly with a touching performance of ’Forget Not’ which as Tim explained to the audience is a song about death and grieving with joy for those we’ve loved and lost, ’This one goes out to my Mum…. We play this with joy’.  The night was completed with ‘Devour Me’ and ‘And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope’ which served as the encore.


Thanks to the Forum crew for having us and a a special thanks to Maric Media for arranging media access.