On December, 13, 2017 while working on his second solo album, Warrel Dane passed away. 56 years old, heart attack diabetes, alcohol issues in the past. But at the same time he is really outstanding musician; his voice was the calling card of Sanctuary and Nevermore (along with Jeff Loomis play). But despite this loss, musicians and label decided to continue their work on this album, and ten month later Warrel Dane’s posthumous solo album Shadow Work was released.
It’s hard to write about albums like this, because “say nothing but good of the dead”, so usually it’s not a review, but obituary or rather epitaph. Also it’s very easy to see some testament or premonition, so many starts to search some deep latent meanings in such albums. And where there’s a will there’s a way, you know. Warrel’s lyrics with numerous metaphors and implications make this job extremely simple too. I can’t promise not to do this as well, but I’ll try.
Shadow Work was initially planned as 80-minutes album, but as a consequence it’s only 40. Eight tracks with one minute intro “Ethereal Breathing” and cover “The Hanging Garden” it’s not too much and this album leaves you with some feeling of understatement. Nevertheless, it needs to commend musicians Thiago Oliveira (guitars), Johnny Moraes (guitars), Fabio Carito (bass) and Marcus Dotta (drums), which pieced together Warrel’s vocal recordings (including demos) and made somehow full album in such hellish environment.
Musically ‘Shadow Work’ is quiet close to Nevermore‘s This Godless Endeavor era. Fast pace, solid riffs, technical solos and drums are plenty of stock here. Guitarists can be reproached for some monotony of their pentatonic, but it compensates easily with playing technics. However, “As Fast As The Others” and beauteous atmospheric “Rain” show the other play, different from “Prog Thrash”. And the most atmospheric song here is ending “Mother Is The Word For God”: changing pace, melody replaced with hammering riffs, violins are tailing off under the pressure of guitars to turn back in the end of the song; it’s amazing work and good album’s ending.
As for vocals: it seems to me (to reiterate: it seems to me) that Warrel sounds a little tired. He also said that it’s already hard for him to reach high notes, as he did in the past. But with this Warrel greatly changes listener’s mood with intonations, going from whisper to harsh and making vocals melodic again. The magic of his voice, for which people love him, listen to him and, I guess, will listen, presents in an album fully.
As I said earlier, there is some understatement in Shadow Work, but as for me, this album is hardly looks like some testament or last words. Warrel had many things to say, he just didn’t had time.
Shadow Work was released on October, 26 via Century Media Records.
P.S. I was lucky to see Warrel Dane on stage: he came to Israel and played entire Dead Heart In A Dead World with local musicians. And you know what? I saw a man that escaped from alcohol capture. Not a young man, experienced, that didn’t became callous and didn’t went down. Tired from burden of the past (that will always be with him), but still acutely feeling and very open person that lavishly shares his energy – that’s how I remember him. Rest in peace.