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I'm quite surprised that the Seattle-based groove/proggers could actually make something worth listening. Honestly, I never understood the hubbub over them. Sure, their technical as fuck and Warrel has unique vox (I didn't say good or bad!) but their albums are...inconsistent, to say the least. Somehow between Enemies of Reality and this album they decided to get their shit together and make something damn good. Don't believe me? Just listen to "Born," it's track one and they already kick into high gear. The tempo! The melodies! The bearable Dane vox! This album might just be their crowning achievement.
Productionwise, it's typical modern metal: No bass, vox and guitars upfront, drums in the background. In this album, it's kind of a mixed bag because Warrel Dane can be pretty annoying when he tries to sing clean, word of advice: Skip "Sentient 6," horrible ballad, horrible singer, okay-ish solo. Jeff Loomis is a fantastic player, he is the saving grace of "Medicated Nation" and "Bittersweet Feast" but there are songs which even he is powerless to redeem. Enter "Sell My Heart for Stones" and "My Acid Words." They sound like Enemies or Dead Heart era Nevermore and that is bad.
Good songs? There's plenty, aside from "Born." "Final Product," "The Psalm of Lydia," the neat instrumental "The Holocaust of Thought" and the epic finale "This Godless Endeavor." The last one is perhaps Nevermore's magnum opus, never have they done something so jawdropping, so beautiful and make Warrel sound good! To be honest, Warrel's voice is not as bad as say...Michael Sweet (if you know him then congrats!) but there are times when he just loses it and sing ever-so-slightly off key. The ballad would be absolutely horrifying if not for Loomis, a point that I can't stress enough. Yet on "This Godless Endeavor" he actually sings clean quite good. Why doesn't he sing like this? Anymore at least, he used to do this quite often in Sanctuary.
Now the meat of this album is the guitars, they are absolutely sublime. The first verse riff in the title track, the part where Warrel says "Sitting here sideways/On the cold stone floor!" that is the best riff in this album, perhaps in their entire career. The main riff in "Born" is also a serious contender, not too mention the melodies. I've heard of their reputation, they're known for suddenly going meedly-meedly in the middle of a song. But in this album it actually works! The part where Warrel yodels (I shit you not,) in "Born" has the guitars playing some runs and they are worth 1/10th the album price! Also, the sweeps in the title track: Orgasmic is an appropriate term for it, it's that good folks! Oh and Van Williams deserve a standing ovation for his drumming in this album, tight as fuck and definitely an improvement over his old style. He can blastbeat, sort of, and he rides that double bass to oblivion.
In the end, Nevermore could've done something absolutely spectacular. Instead they still have the horrible elements from their past. Once they jettison the groovish tempos and hire a singing coach for Warrel, you can bet that they will dominate the metal scene. Get this album! It's the only one worth getting, so far, from Nevermore.