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It comes as no surprise that most ventures into writing a solo album by metal vocalists are, at best, forgettable and at worst, horrific. At times, the results are an inferior version of their main band's music. Other times, one can hear the culmination of negative aspects that the singer had let seep into his band's music (see Geoff Tate's self-titled album for just one example of this). Despite this, my expectations were still high in the days preceding "Praises To The Warmachine's" release. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Nevermore's "This Godless Endeavor" was (and still is) one of my favorite metal albums of all time. Even Dane's statement that this would be quite different from Nevermore was not enough to dissuade my excitement at the possibilities this album had to offer. In fact, not even the inclusion of Peter Wichers as Dane's chief songwriting partner could stifle my enthusiasm.
The songs as a whole are much more straightforward than the usual Nevermore song. There is usually a simple main riff and a typical verse-chorus structure. The instrumentation is far less complex, aside from a flashy solo each from Jeff Loomis and James Murphy in "Messenger" and "The Day The Rats Went To War," respectively. However, the riffs succeed in their simplicity, and the choruses stick in the mind, in a positive way as opposed to the 'so annoying you can't get it out of your head' manner of a typical pop song.
There are doses of alternative rock/metal along with some goth-rock influences as well. In addition, there is the especially effective use of atmosphere to guide and enhance some songs. Despite the presence of frequent Warrel Dane buzzwords like "pigs," "jester" and "parasites," the lyrics are a mix of the intellectually stimulating and the deeply personal. "Brother" and "This Old Man" are two examples of this deeply personal approach, the former being about Dane's emotional wounds after the failure of his brother to provide emotional support after the death of his mother. Dane does a fine job of allowing the listener into his life and allowing him/her to understand his cerebral process towards the circumstance.
There are two covers here, one being an almost unrecognizable cover of Paul Simon's "Patterns." The other is a goth-metal cover of Sister Of Mercy's "Lucretia My Reflection," which is so good that it is arguably the best track here. In some cases, having a cover ranking as the best song on an album is a sign of failure, yet because Dane does such an effective job of putting his own stamp on the song, it is nothing but a success. Ranking right up there with "Lucretia" is "August," which manages to be emotionally stirring while still being relatively heavy and not resorting to the typical ballad-structure. "When We Pray" has an irresistible hook that is classic Warrel Dane. "Your Chosen Misery" builds from soft acoustic guitars to a great harmonized chorus and is another favorite. "Equilibrium" ups the tempo and heaviness while still sounding quite different from Nevermore and is another highlight.
The only negative aspect of this album, besides the stock main riff of "Messenger," is the song "The Day The Rats Went To War." It's one of the heavier songs, but despite a good solo from James Murphy, this song is usually skipped.
"Praises To The Warmachine" is an album that can be utilized as music to rock out to in the car with the windows down and also serve as a conduit for introspection. Warrel Dane succeeds with this solo album because he successfully ventures into new territory without abandoning and alienating his supporters. This is a superb album that deserves to be heard beyond Nevermore's fan-base.