The Obsidian Conspiracy
31 May 2010
by Tom Dare
After five years – and with former guitarists now firmly ensconced in the revived Forbidden and at Dave Mustaine’s right hand in Megadeth – Nevermore have come once again. This time around however, guitarist Jeff Loomis appears to have let other people share the limelight, and to allow Nevermore to progress and develop. While that is a commendable aim, it seems to have backfired somewhat.
For those unfamiliar with Nevermore, they sit in that valley between prog and power metal- heavy, low-register riffs that take seven listens to puzzle out, married with heroic vocals. After six albums in ten years, culminating with 2005’s excellent This Godless Endeavor, the band as been notably absent-without-leave since then. With a sound largely based around the astonishing talents of lead guitarist Loomis and the vocals of Warrel Dane – whose previously obscenely large range appears to have shortened considerably – there seemed little reason to change.
In truth, the stylistic progression is not that noticeable, but there does appear to have been a more restrained approach from Loomis. The riffs themselves are as furious and complex as ever, but they are spaced out more, as are the lead lines and solos. Far more time and focus is given to the vocals than on previous albums, but while some of the vocal hooks are good, a few too many sound self-conscious and lacklustre when the music demands that they are unrestrained and committed. Leaving the widdly bits out of Nevermore is a bit like Nightwish scaling back the use of keyboards and symphonic parts to focus on riffing, or Metallica releasing an album without lead guitar parts (as if that would ever happen!). By scaling back one of the best aspects of the band, Nevermore have put pressure on the other elements to raise their game. And it just hasn’t worked.
A band whose sound is based so much around vocals cannot afford to give those vocals even more focus unless the hooks are there. While there are some cracking songs here, most of the best moments on The Obsidian Conspiracy are based around the stunning riffs, licks and shreds of Loomis, and if the whole album had remained as centred on those aspects as prior Nevermore releases, this could be a tremendous record. Instead, we have a solid record with some enormous highlights and a few more bland moments than we have come to expect.
Watch the “trailer” to The Obsidian Conspiracy. These graphics give us a headache:
Having said that, some of the work here is astounding- from the undulating opening riff of ‘The Termination Proclamation’ through to the closing title track, which starts off sounding a little like Children Of Bodom’s ‘Needled 24/7’ before blossoming into classic Nevermore. The vocals are not bad – ‘Emptiness Unobstructed’ being one of the album’s better moments – but there are some powerfully irritating moments and few instant sing-a-long passages. It leaves you feeling like The Obsidian Conspiracy is a missed opportunity- if you are a Nevermore devotee, a fanatic for this kind of music or virtuoso guitar playing, there is a huge amount here to enjoy, but new fans would be better off starting elsewhere.
Sounds like: Symphony X, Pathosray, the boss level of Guitar Hero
Top Tracks: Moonrise (Through The Mirrors Of Death), She Comes In Colors, The Obsidian Conspiracy
Nevermore – The Obsidian Conspiracy tracklisting:
The Termination Proclamation
Your Poison Throne
Moonrise (Through The Mirrors Of Death)
And The Maiden Spoke
The Blue Marble And The New Soul
The Day You Built The Wall
She Comes In Colors
The Obsidian Conspiracy