Nevermore
Enemies of Reality

From strength to strength, album to album, neo-thrashers Nevermore never failed to expand and flourish creatively, but three years after the release of nearly unstoppable Dead Heart, In A Dead World opus, the Seattle outfit has hit the proverbial glass ceiling. Whereas Dreaming Neon Black, and the aforementioned Dead Heart, In A Dead World, used contrast (“Deconstruction”) and sudden mood shifts (“The Heart Collector”) to offset striking heaviness, Enemies of Reality is surprisingly straightforward insofar as it renders much of the album’s accomplishments (choruses, solos, bridges, drumming) mute.

In fact, apart from the title track and pseudo-ballad “Tomorrow Turned Into Yesterday” much of Enemies of Reality’s songs are, at best, average; there are no centerpieces such as “Narcosynthesis” and “Engines of Hate” or “I Am The Dog” and “Poison Godmachine.” Without cornerstone tracks and Kelly Gray’s (Queensryche, Dokken) murky production, it appears as if Nevermore are pushing an album that isn’t representative of where they were as far as songwriting, vocal arrangements and overall atmosphere are concerned. Nevermore require these very traits (and contrast) in order to be more than just another heavy metal band. Where did they go wrong?

First, Jeff Loomis’ often twisted, unconventional riffage (“The River Dragon…,” Inside Four Walls,” “Beyond Within,” “All Play Dead,” et al.) is basically relegated to monochromatic thrash tricks.“Create The Infinite,” “I, Voyager,” and “Seed Awakening,” in all their technical fervor, sound unwieldy and unfocused, as if composed piecemeal, and hastily stitched together for vocalist Warrel Dane to roar atop. This isn’t the Nevermore of before.

Second, tracks “Ambivalent” and “Who Decides” are almost up to par. Heretofore, the balance between music and Dane’s voice harmonized, and rarely did the scale tip to one extreme; even if it did, it was for effect. Now, Dane, in full vocal regalia, suffocates the songs much in the same way Dani Filth does to Cradle Of Filth. The songs’ instrumental breaks are too brief of an escape from the histrionics, magnifying the fact that, as powerful and diverse a voice Dane commands, restraint isn’t part of the equation here.

Third, perhaps Gray, unfamiliar with a multi-headed beast like Nevermore, made matters worse. In its aggressive stance, the guitar sound should, if anything, slay. “Seed Awakening,” “Never Purify” and “Ambivalent” are prime hard-hitting, involved riff-fests and the lack of clarity and impact isn’t becoming. Furthermore, the rhythm section – one of the best in metal today – merely exists. Under Andy Sneap and Neil Kernon Jim Sheppard and Van Williams’ performances were alive, interwoven seamlessly into the Nevermore’s jarring hits and mercurial transitions.

Fourth, contrast and mood, a Loomis staple, are thrust clumsily into the forgettable “Noumenon,” which echoes of Testament’s instrumental solo power on “Hypnosis” and “Musical Death (A Dirge).” Naturally, there’s no true comparison. To Enemies of Reality’s credit, the title cut is one of Nevermore’s best, with a hard-to-forget chorus and smart guitar work shining as genuine achievements. “Tomorrow Turned Into Yesterday,” an updated power ballad, is what heavy music needs at the moment. Not so much as a direct link back to, say, Dokken’s “Heaven Sent” or Death Angel’s “A Room With A View,” the song just sounds familiar, and Loomis’ breathy solo work is full of ‘80s bravado. Enchanting, in a retrospective way.If Nevermore relied on strengths, their fifth and most visible album should be in high accolades, but as it stands two good cuts of nine is barely worth a cursory glance, and fans well aware of such potential are in for a hard reality. For Nevermore to release the album at a pivotal point in their career is all the more puzzling.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
July 28th, 2003

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