Review Summary: Shredheads, revel in the glory of your new God.
Nevermore was one of the few American metal bands who actually claimed to have a style all to their own. With the release of their self-titled album in 1995, the group has since enjoyed a long and fruitful career and is still going strong to this day. Through a combination of masterful riffery, progressive song structures, technical shred passages, and the unique vocal style and lyrics of Warrell Dane, the group forged a passage through the American metal scene that was entirely original.
I always thought the best part of Nevermore was not Warrell Dane, but guitarist Jeff Loomis. Loomis is an absolutely fantastic guitarist and can shred, sweep and generally melt faces like there’s no tomorrow, but he also possesses a keen ear for songwriting. His riffs are nearly as technical as his solos and quite unique. While both Dane and Loomis released solo albums this year, Loomis’s comes out on top.
The idea of a solo guitar album may seem boring to some, dreadful to others, and they usually are. Many solo albums are composed of nothing but blistering fretboard wankery ripped straight out of Vivaldi or Bach’s songbook (Mr. Yngwie Malmsteen please stand up) backed by boring, repetitive song structures and simplistic rhythm instruments. Loomis defies these conventions and creates an album where the guitar is not only the centerpiece, but just a part as well. The attention to riffing is phenomenal on this recording. Rarely content to have simple held chords, Loomis’s fingers fly over those low B flat strings to create a sonic bombardment of epic proportions. Never has a low chugged chord sounded so good as in the hands of Mr. Loomis.
However, it is truly the solos that take point. Free of vocal constraints, Loomis has dreamt up some of the most deliciously atonal shredwork known to man. Tunes like Opulent Maelstrom
will surely leave even the best of guitarists scratching their heads for days, trying to make sense of the organized chaos. The sweeping work in Jato Unit
is absolutely mindblowing, and even though Loomis relies on sweeps a little bit too much throughout the album, it takes a long time for it to get old. The prerequisite “acoustic guitar arpeggios with wailing guitar solo overdub” also makes its way on here a few times, but Loomis handles it with aplomb.
is one of the standout tracks on here, featuring Michael Manring on a terrific fretless bass solo and producer Neil Kernon playing a fretless guitar solo. It opens with quite a dissonant riff and proceeds to go through all of the motions, including the soaring guitar solo, the chug patterns, the clean Arabic break, and the blazing technicality. However, the best moment on the whole album occurs around 2:55. Simply enough, it’s about as low a chord as you can go without muddying the sound and a couple of screeching guitar notes. For whatever reason, it’s executed better than anyone else I’ve ever heard. I suppose the simplicity crammed into the middle of a crazy technical song makes it seem all the better, but it’s absolutely beautiful. Don’t worry, it’s quick to be followed up by some nuts chromatic shredding.
Miles Of Machines
is another favorite, starting with what sounds like MIDIfied harp playing a quick classical pattern. But then Loomis duplicates the exact pattern on his guitar. And it’s freakin’ HARD. The classical rips in this song are all over, but Loomis’s sweeping arpeggios sound better than anybody else. Full of emotion yet packed full of the technical mastery many only dream about, this tune slays.
Ultimately, the album doesn’t get a higher score because it’s produced for a limited audience. Fans of Nevermore will enjoy it, surely, and guitarheads will be blowing their loads for days to come, but that’s about it. Many can appreciate it, but only a select few will enjoy it. Nonetheless, Zero Order Phase stands as one of my favorite guitar solo albums and one of the better things to come down the pike this year.
Miles Of Machines