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Nevermore have never been known for following in the footsteps of others. Quite the opposite, the Seattle-born outfit seems to make a deliberate point with each release that they will continue to progress on the unique path they have created.
The Politics of Ecstasy is the second full length release by Nevermore. This would be the last album to feature rhthym guitarist Pat O'Brien, as he was recruited by Cannibal Corpse to record Gallery of Suicide. O'Brien's death metal background contributes to making this one of the heaviest albums out there. One question you might ask about this album is "What makes this so special? It can't be classic." First, this is the album that Nevermore really captured their true sound. This is thrash as it hasn't been properly done in years, mixed with a progressive element that makes this one of my favorite albums of all time. And what makes this album so heavy after all? Controlled Brutality, Organized Chaos if you will. The feel of this record is similar to putting Rust In Peace, Tomb of the Mutilated, and Heartwork in a blender. You've got Thrashy riffs, Death Metal delivery, and Melodic solos, respectively.
Every band has a fanboy. You probably know at least one. That guy who thinks "X band can do no wrong, X band is perfect!" Well, I won't go that far, because Nevermore does have its flaws, but let me say, they're few and far between on this record. Most people who have listened to Nevermore have one common complaint: the vocals. Warrel Dane's voice is indescribable. His clean and operatic style stole my ears from the moment I heard Nevermore, though most seem to be annoyed by his voice. Whether you approve of the vocals or not, Warrel Dane is an invaluable piece of the Nevermore puzzle, especially on this record. His lyrical contributions are superb, and like many Nevermore records, this one has an underlying theme. [This is not a concept album, however.]
The Politics of Ecstasy was named after a book by the Timothy Leary. The book's first chapter is called The Seven Tongues of God. Fittingly, the album kicks off with a track of the same name. Nevermore records always start heavy, and this one is no exception. The whole song is furious, every riff is relentless, and Jeff Loomis manages (as always) to leave a fantastic solo behind in his chaotic wake. Warrel definitely has a unique vocal style, and I would say that this track would be a highlight of his ability to use that to his advantage. As a guitar player, I am usually less than concerned with the rhythm sections of most of my favorite bands, but Nevermore's Jim Sheppard and Van Williams make it clear from the onset of the album that they have no intention of fading into the mix. Sheppard's bass is mixed rather well, and The Seven Tongues of God is just one example of his prowess. Lyrically, I interpret the meaning of the songs to focus on four main themes. Perception, Mentality, Government, and Society. Warrel's powerful poetic abilities are prevalent throughout the album, especially on the title track.
Nevermore albums are usually difficult to digest upon first listen due to the fact that there is always so much going on. However, The Politics of Ecstasy features a few songs that are relatively easy to groove on, and I would say these are: The Seven Tongues of God, Next In Line, and the Tianenmen Man. Let me put it this way, if Nevermore had a best-of album, those three would probably make an appearance on it. For the remaining songs, it may take a few spins to get into the groove of the tracks, but it is an experience I highly recommend.
My personal classification for Nevermore would probably be progressive thrash. This title is most aptly fitting for tracks like Lost, 42147, and The Learning. The entire album features nonstop technicality without sacrificing brutality and heaviness. Solo after ungodly solo is laid down by the relatively unknown guitar god Jeff Loomis. His lead work throughout the album is melodic, and he is a master of fitting the leads to the work with the rest of the song. The whole album has a twisted, deranged feel to it, and his solos express this perfectly. For example, the intro riff to Lost is one fine example of what I'm talking about here. Another aspect of this album that places it head and shoulders above the rest is balance. In the midst of the chaos that is The Politics of Ecstasy, Nevermore found the perfect niche for a power ballad, The Passenger, and a brief instrumental, Precognition. The latter displays more emotion and taste within its short two-minute length than most albums.
A perfect example of Dane's awe-inspiring lyrics would most likely be The Tiananmen Man. This track is about the events that took place in 1989, when a man challenged his native Communist government in China. The theme of this song fits perfectly with the concept of the whole album, and just when the intensity climaxes, Precognition's beautiful acoustic calming melody sweeps in. Nevemore seems determined at this point to wow the listener, and they accomplish this goal quite successfully. The final two tracks are probably the most magnificent of the album, especially The Learning.
The journey brings us now to one of the most unique songs in the Nevermore catalog:42147 (See my username). This one is a perfect example of Nevermore's uncanny ability to save the best for last, and it features a balance of extremely heavy guitar parts over fantastic and progressive "transitioning" sections. Overall, the song is indescribable. Unfortunately, Nevermore's magnum opus had to come to an end somewhere, yet The Learning proves to be the perfect spot to terminate this wild experience. This is definitely my favorite Nevemore song. An acoustic intro is followed by some of the most brutal riffs Nevemore have ever forged. Throughout the song, Jeff Loomis once again finds the perfect niche for two awe-inspiringly tasteful solos. All too soon, The Politics of Ecstasy comes to a close.
This is the Definitive Nevermore album, and indispensable in my CD collection.