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Nevermore has spent the better part of 10 years redefining the character of what came to be called groove metal. They’ve generally thrown themselves into just about every possible direction within the paradigm, always employing a slight tendency towards the darker aspects of early progressive metal acts like Fates Warning and Queensryche, and have consequently thrown themselves into a state of stylistic limbo. Everything about the band is technically impressive, save perhaps Warrel Dane’s hit or miss attempts at straddling the divide that exists between Geoff Tate and Phil Anselmo, but the songwriting generally suffers from a complete lack of center. One does not listen to a Nevermore album with the intent of remembering anything that is heard, and as a result they come off as bland and uneventful, despite the impressive technical aspects of each individual song.
“This Godless Endeavor” is something of an oddity amongst their previous works in that it not only bucks this trend towards non-catchy meandering, but actually occasionally reclaims some of the old melodic glory that was ejected when Dane and company folded up Sanctuary’s tents and began this outfit. The modern, heavy as a pile driver guitar tone and inventive musical twists proper to progressive music distort this hearkening back to older days, but many of the choruses heard in the somewhat catchier songs such as “Final Product”, “My Acid Words” and “Sentient 6” almost reach directly back towards the “Into The Mirror Black” sound. Dane’s melodic vocal work, which is also a bit more prevalent than previously, recovers that Tate tinge that is generally missing whenever he tries to put a dirtier character to his voice. Even when doing his viler vocal characters, Dane generally pulls it off pretty well and what emerges is something that gets beyond the cliché “I’m pissed off and I don’t need a reason” attitude common to 90s post-thrash outfits.
Although vocally speaking, this generally heavy for the sheer sake of it band does well, the real strength of this album is in a more clearly defined songwriting approach and a more stylized set of devices. Most of these viciously dark guitar sections maintain a post-thrash, grooving character, yet mix in just the right amount of melodic character to both avoid a melodic death or power metal sound and yet still seem like it wants to go that way. Loomis has always been noteworthy for his competency as a lead player, being able to rival the likes of John Petrucci and not look like a slouch, but some of the wicked rhythmic plugging heard on “Bittersweet Feast” and “The Psalm Of Lydia” almost overshadows all of the wild shredding heard on the whole album. Picture the chaotic tendencies of Megadeth when at their peak, meshed with the sludgy bottom end of Crowbar, and you’ll basically get the idea.
Speaking as someone who is generally a detractor of this band and most other commercially viable post-thrash acts, “This Godless Endeavor” is an impressive exception to the rule, largely because it bends the rules that generally make groove metal what it is. It could be liked stylistically to the darker sound Dream Theater experimented with on “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence”, but it is also a better listen in all respects save perhaps the vocals. It has a clarity and function to it that is immediately obvious, although there is still an avoidance of anything that could be deemed as predictable. But more than anything else, it proves that even in the seemingly infinite sea of coal that is modern metal, there are a few diamonds to be found for those willing to do some digging.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 26, 2010.