"People thought we were begging for money": How Patreon saved Ne Obliviscaris from falling apart in the face of threats, wildfires and loss

Ne Oblviscaris
(Image credit: Press/Season Of Mist)

One of the most fearless and maximalist forces in heavy music, Ne Obliviscaris imbue death metal with expansive song structures, plus plenty of lush beauty from their singing and violins. 

It’s an adventurousness that’s seen the Aussie six-piece get rejected by certain sects of metal’s pearl-clutching traditionalists – yet, by the time of fourth album Exul earlier this year, they’d become international cult darlings. Screamer-in-chief Xenoyr talked to Hammer about the band’s latest music, including its harrowing roots in COVID and the 2020 bushfires down under.

Metal Hammer line break

Your singer and violinist, Tim Charles, has said that the pandemic “came close to breaking [Ne Obliviscaris] completely”. Why? 

“Everyone had their own individual problems to deal with. Tim went through an awful lot with deaths in the family right in the middle of him writing his parts [for latest album Exul]. The drums were recorded in March 2020. The album had to be recorded across a number of years in nine different studios. When things are delayed that long, frustration seeps in. People didn’t know whether the band was still happening because there had been such delays.” 

How did you make it through? 

“What saved the band was having Patreon: we’re forever grateful for being supported by such wonderful people, who helped us move forward despite going through hard times as well.” 

Ne Obliviscaris were one of the first metal bands to use Patreon, and now loads of bands do it. How do you feel about that? 

“When we started ours in 2016, we knew we’d get heckled a bit for it. But I feel that Australian bands are at a disadvantage: if we were based in Europe, we’d probably be bigger because we’d be touring a lot more. And we did get a lot of hate mail.” 

Saying what? 

“It was primarily people who didn’t understand it and thought we were begging for money. There’s a difference between begging for money and people paying and receiving something in return, like behind-the-scenes things and interviews. It’s a subscription service. It was frustrating, but we’ve never cared about what people think too much. In the early days, when we were announced as the support for Suffocation, we received threats.” 

Why were you getting threats over a gig?! 

“Because we weren’t metal enough. At some death metal gigs just prior to this show happening, these people made some flyers that were handed out at the shows, getting people to boycott us for being a main support for Suffocation. They said, ‘Violins have no place in metal,’ and went on homophobic rants. It was completely ridiculous. At the end of the day, we ended up playing the show and didn’t get as much as one heckler, which says a lot about the people that were threatening us.”

Equus, the lead single of new album Exul, is about the Australian bushfires of 2019 and 2020. How were you affected by what happened? 

“I wasn’t affected physically, but you could see the smoke from where I live [in Melbourne]. For quite a long time, there was a haze across the city because the bushfires were so immense. I’m more of an animal person than a people person, so what got to me was seeing pictures of animals trapped against fences because they couldn’t escape. They’d be scorched against the fence, like a warzone. 

I know some people that had to leave where they were living because they’d lost houses. There was this second-hand sense of loss, almost: feeling loss for that person that’s lost everything.” 

It must be interesting being an animal person in Australia, considering most of those animals can kill you… 

“I haven’t had too many close calls with dangerous animals in Australia, but I actually grew up in Papua New Guinea. They’ve got their own problems with crocodiles and snakes. I remember walking along these jungle tracks with my family and standing on a Papuan black, which is one of the most venomous snakes in the world. Animals are only really dangerous if they feel threatened. When a shark attacks once in a while, people will decide they want to go out and hunt the shark, when we’re the ones who’ve gone out into their waters and got bitten. It seems ridiculous to me.”

What ended up happening with that Papuan snake? 

“I completely shat myself and we all ran off! Ha ha! For the most part, you’ll only come across snakes when they’re sunning themselves or hungry. If you step on a snake and it’s in the sun and relaxed, there’s generally a delay, so you have a bit of time while the snake’s confused.”

Ne Obliviscaris's new album Exul is out now via Season Of Mist. 

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.