SummaryWhen Nevermore were about substance
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Nevermore may not be for everyone but what they do offer here is a brand of crossover metal with a wealth of influences pulling the tracks in multiple directions rather than being a sound limited to one particular dogmatic persuasion. They are indeed an American prog/heavy metal band, but there’s no way one could predict what this album would sound like before hearing it, as opposed to other bands that slip into one given label like a glove.
The awe-inspiring opener and poetic ‘Narcosynthesis’ differs substantially from the next track ‘We Disintegrate’ and its uniquely atmospheric dynamic, and both tracks are well different yet from the ensuing developments, particularly the power ballads found later on the album. It would be easy to think this would just be guitar hero Jeff Loomis spewing a boring amount of virtuosic leads and solos all over basic thrashy heavy metal songs with operatic spells from vocalist Warrel Dane, and yet the tracks focus on song-writing first; crafting full songs with inspired parts and with a specific goal in mind for each one; and only welcome the technical prowess of the different instrumentalists as a bonus on top.
The music can get a tad dull in parts whenever the songs steer towards the more stereotypical aspects: the solos are usually tasteful, at times impressive with contagious lead parts, but sometimes come across as a bit on the cliche side, and a few passages can be rather predictable (say, ‘The Heart Collector’ as a whole). But mostly the album carries that exciting vibe associated with that period and more particularly the year 2000, like a crossroads between old metal and more contemporary elements from the new millennium like the wider sounding production, on the drums and guitars notably. They still sound like an authentic and organic mid 90’s band, only with enhanced technologies serving as a more powerful platform seeing through the goal of the record, while preserving the quality song-writing intrigue and not letting the production trump the fundamental compositional and stylistic objectives.
The album a bit oddly shifts to seemingly only power ballads after a point, and although those make for a so-so pleasant listen, the meat of it and the interesting parts undeniably occur early. That whole starting fivesome is quite special metal content, and the sort that cannot simply be found on just any album pulled out from the modern heavy metal bin. Those will likely stay with the fan – for good with at least a couple of those songs. The material alternates between sheer heaviness with deep enormous sounding guitar rhythms, baritone 7 string single-note open plucks with dynamic octave chord motions bringing to mind the more alternative scene of the early 2000’s, and more melodious sequences with either Dane’s soaring voice let loose on choruses or catchy lead guitar patterns. There’s also great continuity between the sections as the vocal lines will sometimes be emulated by the ensuing leads and Loomis favors expanding core ideas for songs rather than stuff them with tons of aimless different parts. At times it can also be poignant with heavy sorrow as heard on the chorus to ‘Evolution 169’ or better yet on the brilliant schizophrenic chorus for ‘We Disintegrate’ with its subtle background arpeggio leads and Dane’s split personality act behind the mic.
Overall it does well at being a mashup of many of the available influences of its time while not sacrificing its core identity. If anything it’s a shame the album should show off glimpses of brilliance and high octane creativity, before settling for more innocuous status quo content in comparison. It provides great vision into a world unseen til that point in the field, then acts like it was a fluke and returns to a more ordinary routine, with a few moments rather pedestrian even. This is still arguably the band’s best effort; the one where they sounded most unique; with the previous ones a work in progress striving for separation and the next releases more generic, self-indulgent and infatuated with the prospects of sounding big and ultimately, formatted.
Release date: September 13th, 2000
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