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Album Reviews : Nevermore – The Obsidian Conspiracy

By on June 10, 2010

Nevermore_-_The_Obsidian_ConspiracySince they first emerged out of Seattle, Nevermore have forged a reputation that has seen them become one of the most preeminent heavy metal acts in the contemporary era. Recognised and admired for their fusion of powerful riffs, flawless technicality and ballad-like vocals, Nevermore’s 7th studio album The Obsidian Conspiracy was, no doubt, the most anticipated album of 2010.

Released a long five years after the masterful This Godless Endeavor, The Obsidian Conspiracy is a technically-sound and imaginatively unique addition to the band’s already extensive discography. Stylistically speaking, Nevermore maintain the core identity of the band through the use of carefully structured, iconic riffs and a unique blend of rhythm, speed and technicality. As one of the most identifiable aspects of the Nevermore sound, it is difficult to fault the production and sonic quality of the album. Like every album before it, The Obsidian Conspiracy is wonderfully mastered by long-time producer Andy Sneap in a way that beautifully complements the aggressive and equally melodic aspects of each song. Guitarist Jeff Loomis is, again, a notable contributor to the overall sonic direction of the album, but despite the polished nature of his guitar work, there is an evident transition towards a more rock-focussed style. Unlike most Nevermore albums Loomis appears to be a lot less technically creative, opting for controlled rather than excessive guitar solos. The more notable tracks include “Emptiness Unobstructed” and “Moonrise (Through Mirrors of Death)” where traditional riffs and a handful of enjoyable solos are plentiful. However, while the guitar work demonstrates a commendable sense of maturation, Loomis’ limited range does make the album significantly less enjoyable than its technically proficient predecessor.

While Loomis’ contribution is undeniably important, the rhythmic core of the band cannot be forgotten. As the backbone of the Nevermore sound, drummer Van Williams provides a superb performance fusing together aggressive, fast and technically challenging drum beats. On tracks such as “The Termination Proclamation” and “She Comes in Colours” Williams, together with bassist Jim Sheppard, perform an invigorating and equally energetic mix of rhythmic beats that continue to be so vital to the band’s identity. Similarly, Warrel Dane’s vocal performance is one that never ceases to identify him as one of the best vocal performers in the contemporary heavy metal scene. His wonderfully unique tone stimulates the senses and allows listeners to vicariously connect with the story being told. Perhaps the most impressionable aspect of his performance on The Obsidian Conspiracy is Dane’s broad vocal range. During “Your Poison Throne” Dane opts for a more aggressive and deeper tone that effortlessly transcends into difficult operatic-like vocals that are significantly higher in range. It’s a transition that is virtually unmatched by contemporary metal vocalists and continues to be one of the most appealing aspects of Nevermore. While Dane’s vocal range is not nearly as broad as on Dead Heart in a Dead World and This Godless Endeavor they are a positive contribution to the overall identity of the new album. Because Loomis’ influence on this album is more subdued than on previous albums, Dane is handed a more prominent role that is well deserved.

However, putting the sonic elements aside there was one aspect that slightly diminished the overall appeal of the album. Lyrically, the songs are evidently weaker in their thematic direction. Slightly more simplistic and with a greater emphasis on repetition, the lyrics that appear on The Obsidian Conspiracy could never match those that appeared on Enemies of Reality, Dead Heart in a Dead World or, most notably, This Godless Endeavor. Because the presence of Warrel Dane is far greater on this album the lyrics are easily picked-up and, as such, their many flaws are sadly evident.

Yet, while there are qualities that are either lacking or subdued in Nevermore’s latest release it cannot be seen as a diminished ability to write truly magnificent songs. In my opinion, the expectations for this album were unreasonably high and the anxious 5-year wait only fuelled the expectation of god-like brilliance. Overall, the album does not instantly hook you in like other releases and it is likewise very different to the elaborate masterpieces of the past however, it is still a worthy contribution to the Nevermore discography which itself is faultless.

Band: Nevermore
Album: The Obsidian Conspiracy
Year: 2010
Genre: Progressive metal/Thrash / Power Metal
Origin: USA
Label: Century Media
http://www.centurymedia.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=39

Reviewed by Lilen

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Five long years, that’s how long it’s been since Nevermore delivered us the outstanding “This Godless Endeavour”. Nevermore is one of the few bands that has managed to go from strength to strength with every release and now in 2010 The Obsidian Conspiracy is FINALLY here to continue that legacy bringing back memories of their “Dead Heart In A Dead World” and “Dreaming Neon Black” era. The heaviness has been slightly turned down here but make no mistake, it is still Nevermore at their finest!

As soon as the opening riff of “The Termination Proclamation” kicks in, the listener is in no doubt that this is Nevermore at their best. All the Nevermore trademarks are here. The chorus will be lodged in the listeners head immediately. Monstrous riffs come from every direction and are complimented with some of the best drum work ever heard on a Nevermore disc (a theme that continues throughout the album). This is a great start to the album leaving the listener in no doubt that Nevermore are well and truly back.

“Your Poison Throne” is next and is accentuated by awesome gang vocals (RISE!, RISE!, RISE!). This is going to be the song that will definitely inspire enthusiastic crowd sing-a-longs at gigs once Nevermore introduce this to the live setting. The rhythm section here is as tight as can be without breaking! Great song and one of the albums’ standout tracks.

The merciless pace of “Moonrise (Through Mirrors Of Death)” shows Nevermore flexing their muscle with another groove-laden anthemic track. This is one of the fastest / heaviest songs on offer here. Frantic riffs abound and the chorus is soaked in melody. Speaking of which Warell Dane is on fire on the whole of The Obsidian Conspiracy. This is the best he has sounded on any Nevermore/Sanctuary album to date. As good as “Moonrise” is, nothing could prepare the listener for what is to come next!

“And the Maiden Spoke” sees Nevermore switch to narrative mode and tell the story of a 17th century tragedy. This track sees Nevermore piecing together a compelling narrative and furious music at the same time. It really is worth the price of purchase alone. Loomis sounds like he has 15 fingers on this one and the eerie chorus sounds like it could have been lifted right off the Dead Heart In A Dead World disc….and that cannot be a bad thing!

“Emptiness Unobstructed” is about as accessible as Nevermore has ever been. This is a straight ahead rocker with another catchy chorus and soaring Dane vocals. This track has some Soilwork undertones which is not surprising given Peter Wichers was heavily involved in the production of this album. It’s a bit of a departure from the traditional Nevermore sound so it’s a little harder to digest than the rest of the album.

The pace is slowed down considerably for “The Blue Marble And The New Soul”. This is a very melancholic song filled with angst-ridden lyrics. The slower pace of the song is lifted a gear mid-way through, from which point the track recalls some of Nevermore’s finest work harkening back to “The Heart Collector”. The overall slower pace of this song is a welcome break from the furious pace of the album up to this point and sets the scene perfectly for the remainder of the disc.

“Without Morals” sees Nevermore back in familiar territory. This mid-paced rocker contains everything that Nevermore is known for heavy groove, tight rhythm section, searing chorus. It also contains some of the most hate-filled lyrics on the album (if you lie to me, you’ll stand on me, this is why I hate you). Loomis is at his best on the solo here. This is typical Nevermore fare, but typical by Nevermore’s standards is still very good by most other bands standards. This is one for the Nevermore purists.

“The Day You Built The Wall” is yet another standout track on this album. It’s right up there with “And The Maiden Spoke”. This is slightly more up-tempo with intertwining hooks and melody throughout with a very “weepy” guitar solo. The lyrics are filled with pure scorn. It’s in this context that Nevermore are at their best. Pure brilliance and very hard to fault this track.

The pace is slowed down at the beginning of “She Comes In Colors”. Loomis’ soft acoustic guitar and Dane interplay beautifully on this one. This gives the softer side of Dream Theater a real run for their money! Midway through the song Nevermore really take it up a notch with some of the most ferocious riffing to be found on the album. This song takes the listener through numerous twists and turns. Just when you think you have the song worked out, it completely changes. This is what Nevermore do so well!

The title track “The Obsidian Conspiracy” closes out this album, and what a way to finish off! Containing one of the fastest and most brutal riffs the band has ever recorded, this song is bound to be a classic. On first impressions, the listener could be forgiven for thinking this is “Wages Of Sin” or “Anthems Of Rebellion” era Arch Enemy. As good as the riffing of Loomis and Danes vocals are here, it’s the performance of Van Williams on drums and the subtle time changes and fills he employs that really stand out on this track. This album will most likely be compared to This Godless Endeavour and of all the songs on offer here, ironically,  “This Obsidian Conspiracy” would probably be the one that would sit most comfortably on that disc.

The production on this album was handled by Soilwork’s Peter Wichers. At first I was hesitant as I’ve never really been a big fan of Soilworks production in the past but Wichers has turned in a sterling effort here as this is among the best produced albums of the genre. Mixing duties were once again handled by Andy Sneap and once again he has delivered an outstanding final mix where every instrument, riff, vocal line, fill, and melody is crystal clear (and heavy as hell!).

This is almost the perfect Nevermore album and a great follow-up to TGE. The band is impeccable throughout the entire disc and to nitpick for faults would be pointless. Having said that, it’s hard to argue if this is better or worse than their most recent output. This is a different album from TGE. The heaviness and overall pace has been turned down a notch and replaced with glorious melodies and hooks. This is about as accessible as nevermore can get without compromising their trademark style and sound.

My only complaints would be that at a touch over 44-minutes (without the 2 bonus tracks) this is just way  too short. For mine, some of the stronger tracks like “Termination Proclamation” and “Your Poison Throne” are over just as fast as they begin. In the overall scheme of things The Obsidian Conspiracy is the perfect blend of the Nevermore we know from “Dead Heart In A Dead World” and the Nevermore we heard on “This godless Endeavour” with maybe a slighter leaning towards DHIADW. Unlike “This Godless Endeavour”, this album takes a few listens to absorb fully but is still a great disc. The only other complaint I’d have is that having listened to this a lot, there isn’t one real standout song or track that I can easily recall unless I am listening to the disc. In the past songs like “Born” and “Narcosynthesis” would lodge themselves in my head immediately. The Obsidian Conspiracy is probably missing that one track that would make this Nevermore’s crowning achievement. Still, make no mistake, this is still a fantastic disc from start to finish and will rate very highly on many a person’s “best-of” list come the end of the year…..9/10

Band: Nevermore
Album: The Obsidian Conspiracy
Year: 2010
Genre: Progressive metal/Thrash / Power Metal
Origin: USA
Label: Century Media
http://www.centurymedia.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=39

Review by Nick Tevelis

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.