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When praise is misdirected, we all suffer. - 13%

hells_unicorn, September 11th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Century Media Records

Hindsight is a curious thing, like a flashlight from beyond, it tends to illuminate the gears turning behind the scenes and clues one in on what was once thought a shocking turn of events. No, this is not to attribute some sort of lyrical or musical brilliance to add to the chorus of unquestioning sycophants in the direction of this album's creator, but more to shed some light as to why Nevermore, arguably a troubled band on the mend and headed to better things, self-destructed a couple years later. Trial separations usually precede divorces, and Jeff Loomis' hiatus to create a superior mold of modern sonic darkness coupled with Warrel Dane's self-satisfying plunge into a solo capacity raises questions as to whether there was trouble brewing in the dark and distant realm of Seattle, or at least it should have in retrospect. Nevertheless, Loomis surprisingly managed to reveal with Zero Order Phase that the Nevermore box had been holding him back a bit as a musician, but not before Warrel Dane succeeded in making the same point all the more loudly with this steaming pile of metalcore-tinged shit dubbed Praises To The War Machine.

From a qualitative standpoint, this album is about on par with a number of latter day Queensryche albums before Geoff Tate got the ax, and at times the music even takes on that sort of stagnant, groovy rocking character, particularly during the softer sections. The employment of two metalcore associated guitarists as primary musicians (admittedly, two of the more technically proficient out of the mix) combined with an obvious desire on Dane's part to dumb things down a bit more results in a number of lifeless, contrived affairs in radio oriented rock cliches that came to define concurrent offerings out of In Flames. To his credit, Warrel has managed to maintain a somewhat cleaner and less grating vocal approach that some of the more obnoxious moments heard on Dead Heart In A Dead World, but what stands in its place is a generally flat and boxed in rock vocal approach that, again, reminds rather painfully of Geoff Tate's mid-ranged drudgery following Hear In The Now Frontier. There are also some fairly decent guitar solos spread about this thing, some of it the handiwork of soon-to-be-estranged partner in sonic crimes Jeff Loomis alongside respected names like Chris Broderick and James Murphy, though most of the noodling is handled by Wichers and Wicklund, themselves reasonably strong guitarists that were attached to other lackluster projects at the time.

The thing about this album that sort of defies logic, apart from anyone liking it, is the notion that it is in any way, shape or form a progressive metal affair. There are very few places where things go out of the typical verse/chorus format, very few songs get that far beyond the four minute mark, and apart from the guitar solos the entire instrumental arrangement backing Dane's vocals is punishingly basic. Would be radio fodder such as "When We Pray", "Obey" and "The Day The Rats Went To War" are kinda heavy in a sort of "here's a singular riff that's chug-happy and moderately animated, but surrounded with melodic, lighter feeling fanfare that only Robb Flynn could love" way, but it's a far cry from the animated streams of ideas heard on The Godless Endeavor or even the less terrible moments of Dreaming Neon Black. Awkward balladry bordering on easy listening like "Let You Down" and "This Old Man" are dead ringers for the sort of "woe is me, because my fee fees" nonsense that In Flames passes off as music nowadays, albeit with that husky, baritone audio chocolate as only Warrel Dane can deliver, though too many mistake it for the chocolate that goes in rather than the kind that comes back out. The only song on here that even feels slightly interesting is the Sisters Of Mercy cover, which has sort of a depressed Goth rock gone metal vibe that manages to work with Dane's vocals a bit better.

The same convention of hearing impaired music connoisseurs that drooled all over Nevermore's middle era must have temporarily commandeered most of the metal press when this came out, because there is no other way to explain the undue love that has been showered upon this heap of vapid trite R. Kelly style. If nothing else, this alleged solo project confirms that Nevermore needed Loomis a lot more than the reverse, and that intricate progressive music sounds better with no vocals than dull, banal groove/metalcore ideas with marginally passable vocals. Between this album and Queensryche's American Soldier, one is left to ponder why the so praiseworthy war machine didn't see fit to send some strategically aimed missiles at select targets in Washington state in response. Maybe Warrel and the infamous Uncle Sam have some sort of professional courtesy between underachievers.