Jeff Loomis
Plains of Oblivion


3.5
great

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
April 6th, 2012 | 56 replies | 14,117 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Loomis further cements his legacy with another strong solo instrumental offering.

When Nevermore broke up (I’m sorry, went on an “indefinite hiatus”) in 2011 many fans feared for the worst. What good could possibly come from the separation of Jeff Loomis’ prodigy-like guitar skills and Warrel Dane’s unmistakably high-ranging vocals? Even though solo efforts by both musicians have been well-received, it is difficult to completely suppress the desire to see the legendary progressive metal band return to form. While Loomis’ sophomore album, Plains of Oblivion, won’t entirely change that, it is rich, complex, and enjoyable enough to make us temporarily forget what we’re missing.

When taken into context, that’s actually quite a feat. Nevermore has been around since 1994, releasing seven records and making a unique imprint in the metal scene with each subsequent album. They accrued quite a following in the process, which in turn must be at least part of the reason that Plains of Oblivion is receiving the attention that it is – although that isn’t to say that Loomis hasn’t earned a sizable fan base of his own. Here, he once again puts his talents on full display in a fashion sure to satisfy old fans as well as new ones, even if the album doesn’t necessarily reach its creative potential.

In many ways, Plains of Oblivion is the second installment of Loomis’ first solo release, Zero Order Phase. Riffs knife through the air with ease, all the while never losing their acute attention to detail. The production lifts every ounce of textural beauty to the surface, resulting in a listen that is as clean as it is heavy. Songwriting skills are present to tie everything together in a way that is listenable but doesn’t detract from the instrumental work. It’s all here, just like it was before, only with a fresh batch of material for hungry fans’ ears to eagerly consume. However, Loomis adds a few new wrinkles to his sound…some benefit Plains of Oblivion, and others take it a notch down.

One aspect in which Loomis has definitely improved is his arrangement of all the shredding. Zero Order Phase, while thoroughly engaging in a technical sense, lost some of its staying power with a lack of cohesive song structuring. That issue has been completely rectified here, seeing how Plains of Oblivion just may be the most listenable shred album you’ll come across all year (and perhaps even longer). One doesn’t need to look past ‘Requiem for the Living’, a clear highlight on the record, to recognize the brilliance of Loomis’ reconciliation of shredding passages with other instrumental contributions that bring balance to the song without causing it to lose a single ounce of aggression. Opener ‘Mercurial’ also has a distinctively unified feeling, presenting itself as something of an overture with its inclusion of a bombastic introduction, insanely technical guitar play, and a sound that progresses within itself without ever approaching “directionless.” In fact, most if not all of the instrumental tracks on this record mark a high point in Loomis’ solo career, displaying his clear mastery of shredding along with other intricate techniques that only the most skilled people in his profession are able to pull off. The main problem arises when the guest vocalists are invited to join him in the studio.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these tracks are easily the most infectious (i.e. memorable), but unfortunately their presence also translates into a nosedive in Loomis’ freakishly talented contributions. Where on other tracks he can be heard almost losing his mind with the way he manipulates his guitar, he falls into more of a regulated role on songs such as ‘Tragedy and Harmony’ and ‘Chosen Time.’ The former at least has an impressive solo towards the end, but most of the songs with a guest vocalist on board could have been performed by a number of artists. The songs are still quite enjoyable, and are probably more accessible than anything else on the album, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that they are taking away what could have made Plains of Oblivion such a special album – one where every moment was crafted by Jeff Loomis in only a way that he could. Still, Plains of Oblivion by no means falters during these moments…it just simply allows Loomis’ expertise to take a back seat, which when you consider the album’s primary draw, is probably not a welcome change.

Plains of Oblivion is an excellent album for fans of heavy metal/thrash. Loomis’ abilities are never in question, and the mixture of raw guitar playing ability with improved songwriting makes for one hell of a listen. The album doesn’t reach newfound heights in the way that many of us may have been hoping, but it would be ludicrous to imply that it lacks creativity. As long as he continues down this path, nobody can really complain about the quality of the material he delivers. Plains of Oblivion is an intense tour de force, one that further cements Jeff Loomis as one of the greatest shredders of all time.



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user ratings (60)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
Dongen (4.5)
While staying true to his knack for technicality and shred guitar, Jeff Loomis chose to elevate Plai...

Matthew M (4.5)
A show piece of a guitarist who is at the top of his game. A must for guitarist and a reccomendation...

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Zero Order Phase

Comments:Add a Comment 
Willie
Moderator
April 6th 2012



15876 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is exactly how I felt about this album too. The songs with guest vocalists end up being the weak link in the album. Bummer.

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Scoot
April 6th 2012



17677 Comments


really? thought this would be a 4 at least

Digging: Unjust - Glow

Eclecticist
April 6th 2012



3863 Comments


*yawn* Jeff Loomis

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
April 6th 2012



18005 Comments


dude was my favorite guitarist back in the day, nevermore was the sole reason i ended up buying a 7 stringer

in fact im gonna go jam some nevermore now

Digging: Autechre - Draft 7.30

Relinquished
April 6th 2012



24407 Comments


i liked his last album but doubt i'll check this out

YUJOS
April 6th 2012



914 Comments


Wish some day Jeff and Van will be back again in Nevermore.

Digging: Misery Index - The Killing Gods

trilogique21
April 6th 2012



375 Comments


meh. first album was better. this one was a lot more boring.

CaptainDooRight
April 6th 2012



28304 Comments


wow forgot this was coming out

yeah jeff technically shreds hard but meaningful songs with eering emotion is scarce, fuk hate when that happens. still gonna check

I remember we talked about you reviewing this a while back Sowing. Good review as always.

Digging: IQ - The Road of Bones

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 6th 2012



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really enjoyed this but I wanted it to be better...like, really push some boundaries.

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
April 6th 2012



18005 Comments


man nevermore was the first real metal band i ever listened to way back in the day

nostolgiaing so hard right now

macadoolahicky
April 6th 2012



1835 Comments


Still better than Zero Order Phase in the sense that it wasn't constant wanky-wank

CaptainDooRight
April 6th 2012



28304 Comments


Pretty much what everyone wanted and what get's me the most is this one guy actually has the potential but didn't go into it with the right mindset.

Yeah he may have wanted to show skill but everyone already know's he has skill, the balance of skill and furtherance of "boundaries" is non-existent.

bloc
April 6th 2012



34667 Comments


Last album made me fall asleep. I won't go near this.

Digging: Anberlin - Lowborn

Palimpsest
April 6th 2012



77 Comments


I'm pretty umimpressed by this. The shred tracks like The Ultimatum are amazing but the slower songs with the guest vocalists are not that good. The Ihsahn track for example sounds like a Deconstruction castoff.

raggedragamuffin
April 6th 2012



689 Comments


saw these guys opening for periphery and protest the hero. guy can seriously shred.

KjSwantko
April 6th 2012



9049 Comments


"dude was my favorite guitarist back in the day, nevermore was the sole reason i ended up buying a 7 stringer

in fact im gonna go jam some nevermore now"


m/

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 6th 2012



7137 Comments


Dude, you're like, pumping out reviews like a printing press. Stop making us all look bad!

RosaParks
April 6th 2012



14592 Comments


Can't wait to hear this.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 6th 2012



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Irving I miss your auto-pos's

lak89
April 6th 2012



183 Comments


I will check this out.



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