|All Artists: Nevermore|
Title: Obsidian Conspiracy
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Century Media
Original Release Date: 1/1/2010
Re-Release Date: 6/8/2010
Genres: Pop, Rock
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
Genres: Pop, Rock
One always says that you can't rush greatness or perfection, and this couldn't be more true in the case of metal titans NEVERMORE, who last released the highly acclaimed This Godless Endeavor in 2005. The Seattle quarte... more »
One always says that you can't rush greatness or perfection, and this couldn't be more true in the case of metal titans NEVERMORE, who last released the highly acclaimed This Godless Endeavor in 2005. The Seattle quartet have triumphantly returned with the much anticipated new full-length release, The Obsidian Conspiracy, which is what could be their most impressive offering of their illustrious decade plus, heralded career. This quintessential metal band was formed out of the ashes of Seattle, Washington, based thrash act Sanctuary in 1991 by Dane and Jim Sheppard (bass), with the addition of Jeff Loomis (guitar, who had played in the final line-up of Sanctuary) and Mark Arrington on drums. A few years later, Van Williams joined the band (drums). The band has since released six full-length albums, toured the world a number of times and captivated the hearts of metalheads touring with such diverse and major acts ranging from Megadeth, In Flames, Disturbed, Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir and Children of Bodom, among countless others. Let the conspiracy begin. NEVERMORE are back and stronger than ever before!
Worth the Wait
Snow Leopard | Urbana, IL | 06/09/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When a band starts doing solo projects and live albums instead of new studio work, it might be time to wonder if a break-up is around the corner, so it's a great surprise and treat that Nevermore have put out a new album. Moreover, it may probably be their best to date. At a minimum, it's probably more consistent than past work (even This Godless Endeavor).
For people who don't know, Nevermore's Jeff Loomis is probably the most talented guitarist in metal currently. He has a knack for coming up with an almost limitless number of riffs, sometimes in one song, and he matches them gorgeously with his solos. Part of the reason he's not as well known as he could be is his work, for all of his immense skill, he seems content to let his guitar work fit in with the song. He's surprisingly humble for a metal lead guitarist. Sometimes I wonder if he even knows how good he really is. He's on record as stating that the songs here are less "notey" than previously, so that Warrel Dane (the lead singer) could stretch out and do his thing more. And indeed he does.
For those who are unfamiliar with Nevermore, the idea that the album is less "notey" might be hard to buy, as the album's opener "The Termination Proclamation," at 3'08", starts with a crazy fast running scale riff, nailed down by bass and drums all the way, before settling into a more mid-tempo chug. But even then, buried in the background, there was still zooming guitar fills. The song also presents the Nevermore formula--multiple riffs and bridges, Warrel Dane's obscure, bleak lyrics, and more melodic choruses. Something different and a bit odd is that Loomis' solos sound more like "standard" metal solos. That is, they sit on top of the song rather than being merged into them as he usually does.
The first song ends suddenly, and immediately we're thrown (pun not intended) into "Your Poison Throne" (3'52"). The song seems to start in mid-fill and drops into a sort of swing-metal before down-tuning to guitar and vocal switchbacks. Dane's lyrics here are particularly snarky ("What do you want from this world?") and seems to be directed at the listener somewhat unnecessarily. At 2:24, the music breaks for a soulful pair of guitar solos by Loomis, one in a Brian May Queen vein, the other more metal-oriented before returning to the opening riff again. A word about Dane's lyrics throughout--either there may be a concept album here (it doesn't really seem like it), or Dane is particular obsessed with system slaves, army ants, and the blue insane. His singing will not be for everyone, but he puts his whole self into it, and if that has led to lapses on past discs, it's largely under control here.
"Moonrise (Through Mirrors of Death)", at 4'01", is especially where the album starts for me. The opening lick is so fast one hardly even notices it (one hears the accent notes), and the way the whole band nails the drone notes--it's absolutely yummy to hear. It's a subtle kind of awesome that makes one want to reply the song over and over. After the opening lick, a jumpy guitar riff is hidden under a powerful chord-solo, but then creeps out as Dane starts singing. Straightforward zoom-thrash, but it's the chorus, half-tempo, that blazes into your head, just like Dane's fantastic line, "I feel the moonrise / inside my head." It's really quite amazing how visually evocative the line is, made possible by Dane's delivery and the way it plays against the choruses riff. Gorgeous and massive. I'd buy the disc twice just for this song. I think Nevermore knew they had pure awesomeness with this, because after the verse chorus, they simply head back to the beginning of the song and do it again. Of course, the bridge has a new riff with Loomis piling something perfect on it (all for only 15 seconds though), then it's back to the beginning for more awesomeness. One of Nevermore's best songs ever.
"And the Maiden Spoke," at 4'58", has the second best line on the whole album on it. The song seems to be about a ghost who "sometimes moves the chairs down stairs and runs away." (Again, Dane's delivery helps make this line excellent.) This song also has some buried treasures in it. Starting with a big, Gothy kind of riff, it then drops into a crunchy lick that immediately gives way to a very notey, skittery, jumpy riff as Dane announces, "She was born in 1617". His voice then drops to a rasp, the band seems to accelerate, and a gorgeous almost unnoticeable wall of sound floats over the whole thing, like a ghost itself. The production here is enviable and the sound is, again, worth the price of the disk. Once again, the chorus is melodic and half tempo, before returning to the jittery riff again, and yet another chorded solo. But the thing to note here--the guitar riff (if it can be called that) is a blazing line of arpeggios, not even chords, and it sounds like the bassist is keeping up note for note. All of this is screaming along under the solo, almost unnoticeable--humility. But then, treasure two, when the main verse returns, something has been done to the guitar--layered (amazingly doubled at warp speed, apparently), and everything's kicked up a shimmery notch, so that when Dane growls out "she is the infinite, she is not deranged" it has a force one rarely finds in music generally. Fantastic. Sure, there is vocal oddness throughout by Dane, but if you suspend disbelief and go with it, it's like he's wide open. It's hardly clear what he's getting at, but it's being delivered with such conviction that it is completely compelling.
If "The Poison Throne" started mid-fill, "Emptiness Unobstructed", at 4'37", starts with the chorus, and very abruptly. (There are some really abrupt cuts in the album that may take some getting used to. The first song ends so abruptly one wonders if there wasn't more.) This song backs off from the intensity of the previous two, and features what should be rather casually nihilistic lyrics but, again, Dane delivers them so forcefully they seem weightier than they probably are. The verse here is acoustic-based, making the song very ballad-like, including a very straightforward and ballady solo. In true Loomis style, however, he can't resist adding one last new riff to end the song.
"The Blue Marble and the New Soul," also at 4'37", adds another song in the older-generation-singing-to-the-younger-generation tradition (like Queen's Father to Son). And, considering Dane's bleak outlook on life, it's half-comical, half-hair-raising that he's passing along like advice. This song, actually, is quite beautiful and haunting like the Steven trilogy from Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare. In fact, it's almost like life-advice from Steven in some ways--Dane's delivery becomes particularly tweaked out. Nevertheless, some people may have a hard time swallowing this one. (At 2'35 notice, particularly, how reminiscent of "Awakening" from Cooper's trilogy the music is.) Or maybe I'm being too self-consciously aware of people's irony--maybe this is the one song that, without qualification, will tear out your heart and reduce you to tears.
"Without Morals," 4'17", opens with two chords to chase away the mood of the last song, then settles in to a surprisingly straightforward crunch-romp. Once again, in the melodic chorus, Loomis buries more fantastic guitar work, but in general the formula is a bit flat here. Dane's chorus, "If you lie to me, you slander me, this is why I hate you," suffers from the you pronoun and the delivery seems unintentionally self-pitying. And even Loomis' solo (one of the longer ones) seems a bit workaday, but the "weakness" of this song is still at a notch higher than most metal.
"The Day You Built The Wall," at 4'21", is a mini-epic and another reason to buy this disc. Starting with another big wall of chords, it then falls into a 7/4 acoustic manifesto with a semi-chorus on the end of it. This then repeats, but only half as long, suddenly interrupted by one of the simplest, coolest guitar licks ever. With usual Loomis ADHD, it goes on only to briefly, then returns to the opening again (full length again). The genius of this is the wanting-wanting-wanting for that riff to come back, but when it does, it's even more wickedly cool than the first time, because Dane sings over the top of it with pure snarliness and in some kind of off-cadenced way that I can't get my brain to wrap around. You might not think lyrics like "Smash your stones with blood and bones and build your wall of separation, smash yourself and kill your friends and build your wall of separation" could be so damn boppy and infectious, but there you are. Also, the delay/echo-effect that Dane uses both times on the word "wall" has to be one of the best ever, especially with how he vocally tweaks them; it's great hearing them echoing crazily into the distance. Unfortunately, this section is painfully short, however, and it goes into the chorus that carries the title. Usually by now, I've clicked back to the beginning of the song. In general, I find something extremely evocative about this song. If I hadn't already bought the disc for songs 3 and 4, I'd buy it for this.
"She Comes in Colors," at 5'31", starts out with acoustic guitar and it seems we're in ballad territory again (and echoes, somehow, of Alice Cooper's "Only Women Believe" and Welcome to my Nightmare in general again). A handsome solo comes along early, and then another short acoustic bit. At 1'30", however, things slow down, and a new, now ripping riff, is introduced--certainly the most articulated one on the disc, and one Randy Rhoades would have been pleased to concoct. While during the pre-chorus there's more buried Loomis arpeggios--humility--and all gorgeous nailed down by the bass and drums. At 3'45", some more acoustic moodiness that then opens up into an extended solo-bridge that fills its lungs to epic dimensions, finally returning to the opening riff one last time before suddenly disappearing.
"The Obsidian Conspiracy," 5'19" closes the disc on a fast, if not an epic note. It's clear that Dane is reaching for something here (the obsidian conspiracy?), but his comparatively slow delivery over the decidedly notey riffs, and the choruses melody seems uncommitted. But by no means is this any reason to think less of this otherwise exception piece of work from the most deserving of bands. If nothing else, the way that Dane growls out "These are my last words" to end the song is pretty perfect and effective. And the band's musical execution is completely enviable. The extended solo that comes in, with a new riff of course, at 3'37", is clearly a holdover from the massive sea of ideas from Loomis' solo album.
Excellence and audacity, sometimes Dane may dare too much and not quite get away with it, but it's better to reach for the stars and fail than not to try. Meanwhile, the rest of the time, the effectiveness of the music hard to find rivaled not just in metal, but generally. This is absolutely a must have for Nevermore fans, and probably should be on anyone's shelf who likes melodic thrash metal."