It’s true. The RMR deck crew has a weakness for the sinister and the deep frightening darkness. The brutal and ritualistic metal soundscapes that Rock never touches. A sweet spot for the underground at large and for bands that show a ton of character.
In other words, the mainstream hunters, hustlers, copycats, and other chart-hungry, swampy creatures of the light1) almost run no chance to appear on this blog.
Nevermore, however, directly emerges from those murky depths of the juiciest records the somber subsurface of the metal industry could muster. So, we couldn’t resist taking another record on board.
Already the 2005 piece This Endless Endeavor fascinated us to no end. Scratchy, overly complex, nasty, and totally rough as it was, this record projected the band’s talent at a scale that not many outfits can muster. Yet, exactly this very complexity made it a difficult listen. An abrasive something that somehow lacked flow and coherence in many ways.
But the mysterious 2010 piece The Obsidian Conspiracy really stuck to our radar. Promises of a more progressive approach built on a darkly sinister theme. A record that was to be the last ever for Nevermore, though.
To add even more spice still, in 2011 – one year after the release of the record – Van Williams and Jeff Loomis left the band2), which pretty much ground the band’s activity to a halt. It’s fate sealed itself indefinitely, once Warrel Dane died in 2017.
Now, I heard the word simple or – worse – simplistic applied to the pleasures of The Obsidian Conspiracy. Or still lower, stuff like mainstream, pop album, or again, not my Nevermore – all kinds of defeatist garbage. It’s funny how the minions of the status quo often try to stick to their guns come hell or high water. As if that same-sound-forever thing is some sort of badge of honor to wear on their metal battle jacket.
Yet, there’s nothing simplistic on this record. Instead, we found true Nevermore. Only, with some added ideas and a much more streamlined structure. In other words, all that needless fluff was out the window. Which – in turn – gave the songs a much crisper, and – I daresay – more ominous appearance.
The Obsidian Conspiracy indeed contains much less fat with a much clearer arrangement. Thus, it appears that the much-hyped influence of Peter Wichers (ex Soilwork), in his role as producer, indeed had an impact.
To add some proof to the proverbial pudding, the record charted at better levels than its predecessor ever did. And that’s a pretty remarkable feat, especially as Obsidian entered the Billboard 200, which is far from easy.
Now, improving chart positions is of course a double-edged sword. Whereas the protagonist will tout this as a sign of success, the antagonist will scream foul and point to the vile mainstream. Greater acceptance through chart numbers means that your fan base is growing. We indeed don’t quite know when ‘mainstream’ happens, yet with Nevermore you got nothing to fear.
In addition, The Obsidian Conspiracy propels Warrel Dane to the forefront, an excellent vocalist at the heights of his powers. And this happened because Jeff Loomis decided3) to go easier on his bandmates and – also – the fan base. His less technical contribution made me marvel more than once at the perfection this master guitarist musters. And as an extra bonus, you’ll truly enjoy those stellar solos that suddenly appear out of nowhere.
And what does that have to do with the quality of this conspiracy here? Well, it is as if Warrel Dane really enjoyed that new-found sea room to maneuver. Gone are the ever-present, in-your-face guitar riffs. With those pained lyrics that somehow appeared almost as an afterthought.
And it shows.
On Obsidian you’ll often find multi-layered texts that truly made us salivate. Dane sports a power of expression that – for sure – wasn’t there before. That, plus the well-poised riffs gives The Obsidian Conspiracy a settled look and feel.
Thrash Metal pounces hard on The Termination Proclamation, the first track. You’ll know at once that this is Jeff Loomis at work. And then the more power-leaning Your Poison Throne doubles-down with one of the most stellar solos I heard to date.
Or take Moonrise (Through Mirrors of Death) that thrashily hits the road in best Nevermore fashion at first. Only that the chorus adds that progressive flavor just a tad later.
The crew here also took a liking to She Comes in Color. First, you get the ballad treatment. Something that probably had many a fan run away in fear4). But then the track hits progressive, even alternative shores as an added bonus. That – together with them solos – morphed this track into one of the best on this disk.
In the end, it is this mix of much straightforward songwriting and this knack of the band to mix thrash with progressive and ambient undercurrents that made the day. An unceasing procession of sounds and flavors that prop themselves on top of a lyrical performance that stunned this crew more than once.
So, even if The Obsidian Conspiracy saddles you with a more stringent structure on shorter tracks, this is in no way an easy listen. In other words, you get a genuine, juicy cut of Nevermore, yet at a more sophisticated level than its predecessor.
Because – sometimes – less can be more. Who would have thought that possible?
Record Rating: 8/10 | Label: Century Media | Web: –
Album Release: 8 June 2010
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