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Everyone knows Warrel Dane as the controversial frontman of infamous US power/thrash band Nevermore. When I say "controversial" I mean in the sense that he has the biggest supporters as well as the biggest detractors. Many people worship his beautiful melancholic crooning or despise his grating whiny wailing; while I fall in the former group I still can understand a bit how some people dislike him because of his unique vocal approach. It's very operatic while at the same time just as aggressive and punishing, but all the same time epic and powerful.
When Dane decided to go solo with this very politically driven album I was a bit disappointed, I was hoping for another Nevermore album after the very pleasent This Godless Endeavour, but again I was still looking forward to this release because he has always been in my top 10 favorite metal vocalists. After reading and hearing the hype surrounding this, I didn't know what to expect; some would say it's far different from Nevermore's sound, but at the same time very emotional and politically charged like Nevermore's theme. Once again, I was thrown off when I found out guitarists from Himsa and Soilwork would be participating in this; I'm not even close to a fan of Soilwork or Himsa and this did not sit well with me. I was a bit worried it would be a nu groove laden album mixed with pseudo-tough guy vocals or some stupid shit.
Fortunately I was wrong. Praises to the War Machine IS very different from Nevermore and it's sound, but at the same time very similar in a few aspects. The sound here, is a bit like Soilwork mixed with Nevermore's lighter moments almost going semi-Gothenburg at times. Either way it isn't very promising especially with lasting value, since this has been done many times. The bass and drums are more of the same, with nothing special other than certain double bass moments. Drums are highly competent, Dirk Verbeuen has played in bands like Aborted and Yyrkoon, both decent bands with heavy rhythmic sections but it isn't utilized very well here. Fortunately, guest appearances from guitar legends James Murphy and Jeff fucking Loomis of Nevermore (a god). Making the songs they guest solo on much better, definitely being the highlights of the album which is a bit sad since they are 'guest' appearances.
Obviously the biggest highlight here is Warrel Dane; who does a fantastic job as per usual showing very much emotion in his singing, probably more than every Nevermore album combined to showcase a very intense performance full of vocal highlights. Songs like Your Chosen Misery and Brother both nothing special other than slow ballads now stick out with Dane's emotional wailing. I can only imagine the pain or feelings Warrel Dane went through writing the lyrics, going through much personal moments it seems. Lyrics range from angry political ranting to angry biased religious views to sensitive family feelings; all very touchy and moving topics.
Overall the songs here range from totally boring to kickass, with unfortunately the boring weaker songs floating around in higher quality. The best song on here is not the heaviest nor the slowest, but somewhere in between; Let You Down. It's a highly melodic piece full of weird tempo changes that work absolutely perfectly, starting off oddly melodic and mid paced moving to very slow with whispered vocals and ending up a decent mid paced catchy as hell chorus. It's hard not to feel the emotion and catchiness found in Dane's vocals in this song, definitely the best song on the album. Other noticeable moments are the blazing fast The Day the Rats Went to War being the most fun to headbang to. Showcasing some decent actual RIFFS somewhere between Nevermore and The Haunted, this is a fun song highly reminiscent of mid-era Nevemore.
Praises to the War Machine is in no way an absolute stand out amazing album but at the same time no where close to being absolute shit. It's slightly disappointing, I suppose I was expecting a Nevermore clone and didn't recieve one so don't pick this up thinking the same. It's somewhere between heavier rock and grooving metal that somehow works for the most part. Most of the songs don't stick out, but while listening to each individual song it's hard not to enjoy Warrel Dane's vocals because they are absolute standout on this album. Certain songs will stick more than others and those are the biggest highlights; songs like Let You Down, The Day the Rats Went to War, Patterns, and Messenger. Others just tend to drag on or be just plain boring and would be absolute crap if Dane doesn't save them. I highly recommend this for fans of Warrel Dane's voice, he shines 100% here, giving a great emotional performance that is top notch. Other than that, the songs and instruments are simply bland or plain; without the godliness of Jeff Loomis and Van Williams backing it up the overall sound is simply barely passable.