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As a Nevermore fan I was looking forward to hear what this album had to offer. Warrel Dane has a big knack for memorable melodies and I'm definitely curious regarding his role and importance in Nevermore's songwriting. However, the lineup addition of ex-Soilwork guitarist Peter Wichers had me worried about the rhythm guitars. This guy composed mallcores riffs and Pantera grooves in a faster pace than even the worst Roadrunner acts during his last years in Soilwork.
"When We Pray" sets the pace immediately with some seriously malicious vocals by our hero. It's quite a spiteful and negative song both lyrically and in terms of mood featuring a fantastic chorus. Warrel's vocal work is of high class and drives the whole song with precision. The underlying riffs are also good enough to support the song. Nothing spectacular, but it's a solo album so I assume the vocals should dominate. Positive surprise.
"Messenger" delivers yet another fantastic chorus. Sadly it's disrupted by an intro riff that must be something unheard since Slipknot's "Iowa". One of the most overt shit riffs that ever grated my ears. Yes, it has a (in nu-metal terms) technical ending but so what? This was my biggest fear. Peter Wichers sure took some Soilwork with him. At least Jeff Loomis comes in with a guest guitar solo and adds some class. Could've been the best tune on here considering the chorus and the verse toward the end.
The highlight here as expected is Warrel's voice. He tries out some styles never heard before as well as his classic majestic highs. It's often the verses that brings something new such as mellow almost spoken vocals or low pitched ones. For the choruses he brings out the big drama from Nevermore. This is a smart move, because it brings both innovation as well as a sense of familiarity. Another thing that differs from Nevermore is the level of depth lyrically. These songs seem very personal and rendered from life experience. "Brother" is an obvious example.
A downside here are the three tracks that I consider throwaways. "Obey", "Patterns" and "The Day The Rats Went To War" fail to make lasting marks. Hence the albums drops from very good to good. The reason is often lack of inspiration in the guitar department. The main riff in "Obey" doesn't, hopefully, get even the most starved listener excited. In lack of a better word it's just really redundant. Why they put that tune as number three I will never understand. "Patterns" delivers a similar set of useless guitarwork with a start and stop riff with true Pantera vibe to it. No Warrel can make up for that. I still expected the guitars to ruin more tracks.
Compared to Nevermore I think this is exactly what Warrel wanted to achieve. All the songs have a main aim of being memorable and structured rather than technically proficient. He's definitely proved himself. This is well over my expectations. Solid album.