Review Summary: Download, Process, Analyze
Time has been somewhat unkind to The Politics Of Ecstasy, not through any fault of the album itself but due to trends in the music scene that coincided with it and are now derided. Groove metal is seen as a blight on the reputation of the metal genre throughout the 90s, and with fair reason, given the poor state of bands such as Demolition Hammer
once they transitioned to that path. Due to some honestly rather superficial similarities with the genre, Nevermore’s second album is occasionally slammed as lacking the finesse or intelligence of their later work, despite it probably being their best for one simple reason.
The riffs on The Politics Of Ecstasy are modern, chuggy and mechanical, but they are undoubtedly the best
in the Nevermore discography. There’s no shortage of great ones, but album highlights include the verse riff of The Tiananmen Man
, with its catchy slides between phrases, Lost
’s verse riff with its great switches from thrash metal chugging to intricate single note runs, and the Mekong Delta
-ish mid-section riff of the title track, among various others. Every track has at least a few killer riffs, and despite them occasionally being labelled as being too Groove-metallish, it’s not a fair labeling at all; the riffs are still intricate in spite of the extremely bass heavy production that gives them a modern feel. Combined with the excellent drums and the somewhat inaudible but definitely tangible bass, the rhythm guitars form a powerful wall that drive the songs perfectly for Warrel Dane’s pained falsetto to cling to and for O’Brien and Loomis’s solos to accentuate.
The songwriting on The Politics Of Ecstasy is largely extremely good simply because it’s not overdone. Songs like The Learning
and The Seven Tongues Of God
are longer than your average metal track, but the ingredients for them are not inappropriate for their length. There are clean breaks and melodic passages littered throughout the album but they’re not excessive or particularly intrusive, and fall in line with the songs far better than on the later Nevermore albums. One could accuse albums like This Godless Endeavor of sapping their momentum away from the heavy moments of their album with frequent clean sections and slow starts to the songs, but not so here. The slowest tracks, The Learning
and Next In Line
don’t make the mistake of starting slow and somehow slowing down more, instead finding a solid pace or introducing excellent melodic passages, in particular in Passenger
where the song’s slow-ish pace is offset by its good melodic progressions and shorter length. The only song which seems to suffer notably is the title track, which is somewhat sluggish and doesn’t inject enough catchiness or melody to help drive its 7:56 running time. However, the overall running time for the album is lower than their later works and the more energetic feel of the album gives it a boost in overall listenability over Dreaming Neon Black and This Godless Endeavor despite their relatively accessible songs.
All these factors are quite subtle and quite simple as driving mechanics for the album, but they contribute to The Politics Of Ecstasy being Nevermore’s best work and its position amongst the best thrash albums of the 90s. Despite all the progressions made in their later material, the fundamentals – riffs, grooves, instrumentation, songwriting - are at their strongest here, even if they’re not at their most ambitious.
The Seven Tongues of God