Review Summary: It may not live up to Nevermore's later albums, but it's a great debut effort, and let's not forget the old saying "save the best for last."
Nevermore's self-titled album is arguably their worst. Among NM fans, it is always this album which recieves the most negative feedback. However, this is still a great CD and a great starting album for Nevermore.
The biggest mistake you can make if you get this album is listening to it after you have heard all the other Nevermore CD's. This album falls noticeably short of the the rest of the band's catalog. Although the music would be great by itself, Nevermore progresses too quickly to look back on this album. Listen to This Godless Endeavor and then this and you'll see what I mean. While most people are quick to talk about the negatives on the album, there are some standout tracks/moments here, and I think they deserve some credit.
Unlike This Godless Endeavor where seven-strings are the primary instrument, the guitar is exclusively six-string. What does this mean to the music? This album is less heavy than the albums to come. Probably another reason people like the later albums better.
What Was Good About the Album:
The guitars are a highlight, courtesy of Jeff Loomis and Pat O'Brien. The latter you may know from Cannibal Corpse, but put aside any preconceptions you have about the album if you haven't heard it, fortunately it sounds nothing like CC. The riffs are interesting for the most part, i.e. Sea of Possibilities. One strength the guitars have is to make music that fits their song titles, and this song is a perfect example. The intro riff sounds like it's everywhere at once, followed by a solo which sounds quite simply chaotic. It is obvious from about the second song that the guitarists are very good.
Although I could bore you for a few hours about Jeff Loomis, I'll say this, his level of guitar playing is easily one of the most inventive and impressive of the past 10 years, and he is a great asset to the band. For the most part he handles the lead work while O'Brien has rhythm duty. The drums and bass complement the rest of the musicians quite well. One of the best basslines on the album is Sea of Possibilities. As far as drums, I wouldn't say that they are Nevermore's most complicated, yet another area that the band improved on over the years. The drums were actually done by two different drummers, Van Williams (the band's current drummer) and a guy named Mark Arrington on tracks 1, 4, 6, and 8. Both drummers are solid throughout the album, and it shows. Godmoney features one of the most agressive drum parts on the whole CD.
I had to save the vocals for last, they are hard to explain, but if you've ever heard Sanctuary, then you have an idea how this will sound. A close comparison is Queensryche, and Dane's 'ryche influnces are quite present here. I personally think Dane is one of the best metal vocalists, but then again, I'm probably the only one. Dane has a great vocal range and it shows on the album.
What Was Bad About the Album:
Starting with the guitars, the riffs are almost too complex and not catchy enough. Not that NM has to be mainstream, but listen to some of the stuff and you'll see that most of the songs won't get stuck in your head like "The River Dragon Has Come" (Dead Heart In A Dead World) would. The solos are also less tasteful than they could be, and they tend to sound the same at times. The vocals are a more noticeable negative on the album. Warrel Dane hasn't quite found his way out of his high-pitched Sanctuary vocals (i.e. Battle Angels) He does a much better job on the later albums. Most people already find his vocals quite annoying, and if you are one of those people you'll definitely hate them then.
Finally, the total vibe of the album is just not up to par with the rest of NM's work. Dreaming Neon Black and This Godless Endeavor are epics and the songs seem to fit together so well on those albums, but I don't get that feeling on this album. Although it has decent overall flow, the songs sound separate and don't work together as perfectly as they do on those albums.
This album deserves a few spins, but it is probably more for hardcore Nevermore fans. Considering the fact that it is moderately hard to come by, I wouldn't sweat over getting it, however it is most effective to listen to it before the other albums, that way it's an uphill experience from there.
[Note: the album was rereleased in 2006 with five bonus tracks, I advise getting this version, not just for those five songs, but the sound is a bit better.]
What Tomorrow Knows
Sea of Possibilities