Ok, who’s surprised? Not me. It took nearly five years of waiting since the magnificence of This Godless Endeavour, and while the thirst was moderately quenched along the way by solo albums from both singer Warrel Dane and guitarist Jeff Loomis, live-CDs/DVDs and a best of-disc, it feels so damn good to hear new Nevermore-goodness from the studio. Fear not, for the best band to ever come out of the damp corners of Seattle are still holding their sceptre high.
Anyone need elaboration that the rhythm section of drummer Van Williams and bassist Jim Sheppard is still tighter than the gap between colliding tectonic plates? Didn’t think so. Jeff Loomis unleashes his monster-shreds as well as appealing acoustic flourishes tremendously and Warrel Dane is still a vocal god. I’d actually highlight Dane from this album. Those wishing for the Sanctuary-era banshee wails will be left feeling short, but anyone love those utterly sinister and soul-reaping vibes Dane brought with his voice on Dreaming Neon Black like I do? Yeah, I’m feeling plenty of those again. Along with Jon Oliva, Dane is the best with moods and emotions which shine here throughout.
As pretty much always with albums like this, I require a song-by-song rundown to bring the musical picture.
The Termination Proclamation – The immediate finger-twisting riffage and double bass drums are a very simple and effective message of “Welcome home – this will rule”. Head-bashing verses, very catchy chorus with an almost doomy atmosphere (the feeling, not so much the tempo). Vintage fast-paced Nevermore. Probably my favourite song on this record.
Your Poison Throne – Brings that aggressive Enemies Of Reality-vibe with the fist-pumping gang-shouts and chugging riffs. Another killer chorus. The mid-section with a very melodic solo even brings some classic rock-vibes, which is interesting. It’s probably just me. Great song.
Moonrise (Through Mirrors Of Death) – The bulldozing opening reminds me of Inside Four Walls, one of my very favourite Nevermore-tunes off of Dead Heart In A Dead World. The first tune to really introduce the scale of the visiting super-creepy Dane, from laconic speech parts to the imposing chorus. Mid-section will be murder on necks when played live. Probably my favourite song on this record.
And The Maiden Spoke – Those who embraced This Godless Endeavour should eat this baby up (although lyrically and vocally, Dreaming Neon Black is creeping right there deep in your mind as well). Slower, ominous layers of melodies alternating turns with bursts of proggy heaviness where Williams bashes in some sweet tempo tricks in the headiest moments. Solo shooting into air guitar-paradise. Another killer chorus. Probably my favourite song on this record.
Emptiness Unobstructed – Ok, this is where the unending verbal fellatio takes a short pause. This is the one song that I wasn’t in love with within the first three listens or so. With much more simple and straightforward riffage in the heavy parts, at first it felt much more in line with the mediocre songs on Warrel Dane’s solo album. But after a while, the acoustic parts and mid-tempo pre-choruses won me over for the choruses to run by.
The Blue Marble And The New Soul – The closest you’ll get to a ballad with the band’s original material here. Dane lets his melancholic croon shine on top of the clean guitars, gloomy keyboards and low-key rhythms. When the distortion kicks in the song even feels somewhat…uplifting. Trust me, the lyrics aren’t helping that mood but it’s…just something momentary. Uncharacteristic for Nevermore, but it works.
Without Morals – The second tune where I’d call the combo of head-bobbing riffs and technical lead melodies slithering in the background vintage Nevermore. Great harmonizing solo.
The Day You Built The Wall – In terms of crushing heaviness, the slowest tune of the bunch with a very gloomy atmosphere added with acoustic guitars. Fists will fly with this one.
She Comes In Colors – Sheer awesomness. The mellow opening and Warrel’s gentle vocals accompanied by a subtle lead guitar lull you into a somewhat safe place, before some eerie harmonics lead to the kind of smashing barrage of guitars that will light up a darkened stage completely before initiating sheer havoc in the pit. The grooving verses and Loomis’ solo are unstoppable. The contrast with the mellow mid-sections is beautiful. Probably my favourite song on this record.
The Obsidian Conspiracy – Did you like Born? Then you’ll love the title track here. Brutally fast riffs, relentless rhythms, leads to spare, Dane preaching on top like a maniac – it’s all there to appropriately finish the album with a bang. Probably my favourite song on this record.
Well, in cases such as my limited box set edition, the album isn’t quite over. After the ten original tunes are two cover songs, one of The Tea Party’s Temptation and the other of The Doors’ Crystal Ship. The former was an unknown band to me before this, apparently a somewhat successful Canadian band that dabbled from blues to prog rock while taking hints from eastern musical styles and industrial alike. A sweet Nile-esque acoustic intro leads into a disturbingly quirky number, where most notably the combo of the keyboards and heavy riffs in the opening segment remind me of Awake-era Dream Theater. Great version anyhoo. Crystal Ship is kept unplugged, letting Dane take center stage with an expectedly grabbing performance which I think Jim Morrison would have applauded. The melancholic and slightly loungy atmosphere of the original is of course creepyfied like Nevermore so brilliantly can. Guitar-enthusiasts shall also love the box set for the additional, “Shred like Loomis”-play along disc, which includes Your Poison Throne and the title track in versions with either just the guitar or the guitar stripped from everything else. Included with these tracks are instructional videos and printable guitar tabs for both songs as well. Trivial stuff for many indeed, and while I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to play this stuff no matter how many times I watch these videos over and play along, I still consider it a very cool extra from the artists themselves.
What can I say? All fanboyism aside, I expected a masterpiece and I got it.
While the solo albums of Dane and Loomis weren’t mind-melters, The
Obsidian Conspiracy proves that when put together with Williams and Sheppard
backing them on the beats, they can seemingly do no wrong. The iron-clad production job seals the deal. While an AOTY-tag
is certainly risky when something major like a new Blind Guardian-album
is so close on the horizon, I can’t deny it at this point. So how many
probable favourite tracks were there in this review? Yeah, exactly.
Killing Songs :
All! (Ok, Emptiness Unobstructed is "just good", but that's hardly a knock on something this brilliant throughout)
96 / 100
Goat quoted 86 / 100
Tyler quoted 92 / 100
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