NEVERMORE - Objectives In The Mirror...

May 26, 2010, 10 years ago

By Carl Begai

nevermore feature

“Nevermore never broke up. I know there was a rumour floating around but that was just retarded.”

Vocalist Warrel Dane blames said rumor on the fact that he and guitarist Jeff Loomis chose to follow up Nevermore’s 2005 album, This Godless Endeavor, with solo albums rather than a another band effort. The end result was a five year wait for The Obsidian Conspiracy, a monstrous piece of work, and judging by the widespread feedback at press time it was worth it. The album recalls the band’s breakthrough era in ’96 with the In Memoriam EP and The Politics Of Ecstasy, a return to form that is bound to raise a few eyebrows. The layers of trademark and ultimately unique progressive thrash have been peeled back to allow Nevermore’s melodic side to shine through once again, resulting in what may well be their most accessible release in years. Not in a commercial sense, but certainly in terms of memorable riffs and infectious hooks. Especially in the wake of This Godless Endeavor, which showcased a band seemingly bent on beating the listener into submission rather than reeling them in.

“A lot of people don’t realize that we toured for almost two solid years for This Godless Endeavor,” Dane says of the extended wait. “It didn’t seem that long for us. Jeff wanted to do a solo record (Zero Order Phase), I wanted to do my rock record (Praises To The War Machine) and we got it out of our systems. It’s a cliché statement but it’s true.”

Saying that Nevermore took a back-to-the roots approach to The Obsidian Conspiracy is a cop-out. They haven’t strayed from the sound they established over 15 years ago. If anything it seems as if they’ve streamlined things, removed some of the progressive shred and clatter that gave This Godless Endeavor a darker and more ominous feel.

“They’re in there; you just haven’t heard them yet,” laughs Dane. “There’s stuff in there secretly waiting for you to find it. Streamlining things? Not on purpose, not at all. Maybe Jeff did, but you’d have to ask him about that. I know he said in some interviews that he was going to simplify things a little bit to make more room for the vocals. Which pretty much fucked him because now he has to sing a lot more (laughs), and he’s actually a very fucking good singer. You try and sing over anything that he plays, then imagine playing that stuff and singing at the same time. That’s fucked up (laughs). Seriously fast, vicious thrash riffs and singing off time over those…”
“Every record that we’ve ever done, the songwriting happened in different ways each time,” he adds. “For this one Jeff and I were trading mp3s all the time, emailing the songs or parts of songs back and forth as opposed to being in a rehearsal room together. I don’t know if that had any effect on the way the album sounds, though. I can’t be objective.”
“Nobody’s going to tell me that it sucks,” Dane adds, “but it would actually be kind of awesome if somebody did because I would appreciate their honesty. It seems that everyone really likes it though, so you can’t really ask for more than that, I guess. We’ve got a lot of memorable choruses on this record than the last one. Again, we didn’t do that on purpose, it just kind of happened that way. I think that’s where people are drawing the similarities between this one and Politics from.”

Loomis did indeed make room for the vocals on the new record. Dane’s performance is an even split of intensity and atmosphere, and he uses the extra space for maximum impact. The only thing missing are the infamous high range vocals from his early days.

“I’m not 18 anymore (laughs). However… I have a secret. I used to be in another band, remember? We might be doing another record. So I might have to go back for a few voice lessons before I can do that, because to sing that high you have to do it a lot.”

If a Sanctuary record does in fact become a reality – and by all accounts it will – Dane agrees he’ll probably have to pull out his banshee wail for a few tunes. It’s highly doubtful he’ll return to screaming his head off for Nevermore, however, largely because he finds the mid and lower ranges he used on The Obsidian Conspiracy much more effective.

“I don’t think there’s really any point in going back to that era as far as vocal style,” he offers. “It is what it is, that was then and this is now. It’s not that I can’t sing that high anymore, because I can, but I think it sounds dated. Then again, if it’s done correctly then maybe it wouldn’t sound dated. Low tones can be just as frightening, though.”

Talk of a reduced progressive edge to the music may have some fans in a panic, but The Obsidian Conspiracy is far from being predictable. Back-to-back tracks ‘The Termination Proclamation’ and ‘Your Poison Throne’ sound like one song split into two – both clocking in at under four minutes each – while the darkest track on the record, ‘When The Maiden Spoke’, is a schizophrenic shredder that keeps the listener guessing right to the last note. It also includes a couple songs sound like they were written for Dane’s solo album.

“Quite a few of my friends at home fucking hate the second song (‘Your Poison Throne’) because of the chanting thing, to the point that I almost called Andy Sneap, who was mixing the record, and told him to take it out. Then somebody else said ‘Don’t you fucking dare take that song out…’ so now it comes back to that ‘I can’t be objective thing’ again.’

“'When The Maiden Spoke' is one of my favourite songs. When I first heard it I asked Jeff if he was trying to kill our drummer (laughs). I actually said that to him about a couple of the songs, like the title track, and I don’t think Van (Williams) wants to die anytime soon. I can’t pick favourite tracks off the record, though. They’re all my kids.”

The Obsidian Conspiracy features Soilwork guitarist Peter Wichers in the producer’s chair, reprising his role from working with Dane on Praises To The War Machine. In spite of similarities, real or imagined, between the solo record and the new Nevermore outing, Dane says Wichers had very little to do with shaping the actual songs.

“No, absolutely not. I obviously worked very closely with him on my solo record because we wrote the songs together, but Peter didn’t do any writing for this record. He did contribute to some of the arrangements, but Nevermore in its pure songwriting form is Jeff and myself and we didn’t want any kind of outside influence.”

Wichers did have some impact on the album, however, simply by being involved. A ballsy changing of the guard by Nevermore in light of their track record of excellence working with Sneap behind the board.

“It’s fucking awesome working with different producers because if you don’t do that you don’t realize just how far or where you can take things,” says Dane. “Working with the mindset of different people definitely helps you to expand and to grow and to get better even when you’re ancient like I am (laughs).”

It’s also bloody dangerous, as the band learned first hand with their Enemies Of Reality album in 2003. Produced, engineered and mixed by Kelly Gray (ex-Queensryche guitarist), the album was deemed by the fans to be sonically inferior to everything Nevermore had done previously, to the point that Sneap was brought in to re-mix the album in 2005.

“It can be dangerous,” Dane agrees, “and that was a lesson that we learned. But then Andy fixed it (laughs). I couldn’t tell you who’ll be producing the next one, though. I’m always thinking ahead. We’ve already got some new song ideas down, because it isn’t going to be five years between The Obsidian Conspiracy and the next record.”

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