Review Summary: Surrounded by solid musicians, Warrel Dane once again proves he has no equal.
Now I’m not a particularly religious person, but it seems someone has answered my musical prayers. With Iced Earth's latest being a complete sleeper, Bodom hitting rock bottom, and Watershed completely lacking any memorable songwriting, the metal scene is in desperate need of an at least a decent album. Not that there aren't any good albums out there right now, it’s just there doesn't seem to be any hard-hitting, balls up, cock-rock cd's to keep my suburban white ass head banging. Dane has answered my prayers with a disc so good if you see me drive by in my parents car with one arm raised, clasping an invisible orb, head banging furiously, you'll already know what I’m listening to.
Beware listener, this is not Nevermore, and if that's what you’re expecting you could be a tad disappointed, but after repeated listens you will come around just as I did. All seems vacant in Nevermore base camp these days, but this has definitely made the wait for some new material far more bearable. The album does however have the same heaviness, production, and sound of Nevermore, particularly close to Dead Heart In A Dead World, so if you’re already a fan you will be in for a treat.
Superb riffing dominates this album; Peter Wichers (ex.Soilwork) and Matt Wicklund (ex. Himsa) absolutely throw it down. Neither of them brings anything incredibly original or progressive to the table, but the riffs are fresh, heavy, and masterfully thought-out. Every song is impeccably well written and manages to keep your interest all the way through. The song writing style is very much like Dark Tranquilities Fiction ; in that every song flows incredibly well; bottom ended chugs proceed into head banging speed riffs and then into chorded choruses, giving Warrel a great amount of room to exercise his vocal talent over all of them. It’s not all heavy metal though; the songs take a lighter change in the mid-section of the album, featuring some truly epic ballads such as Let You Down and Your Chosen Misery.
The bass and drum work on is not however up to the high standards of the guitars and vocals. The drums sit way back in the mix making them particularly hard to pick out and appreciate, but then again this is more hard rock than it is metal, so maybe I was expecting too much. The bass follows the guitar lines all the way though but, the mix has such a heavy bottom end that you know it’s there.
And now on to the man himself, Warrel Dane has an incredible talent that is rarely seen nowadays. His operatic vocal style will simply astound you every time, spine tingling highs, an exceptionally powerful midrange, and perfect vocal harmonies, will have you begging for more. He also has a remarkable ability to make every word so full of emotion that it paints a vivid mental image of whatever he’s singing about. He bellows “love lost, fire at will” and “if your finger was above the trigger, would it itch"” with such piss and vehemence it’s somewhat frightening. The vocals are also very well placed within the context of the riffs. His operatic vocals fly over the boring parts and stop to make room for the interesting and complex tidbits of guitar work. The lyrics are angst-ridden barrages of protest against the government, war, and drugs, but with-out being too preachy. In terms of vocals, this album is leaps and bounds above everyone else, even most of Dane’s work with Nevermore.
The first section of the album is four songs of awesome heavy-metal/hard-rock, featuring a brilliant solo from king Jeff Loomis on Messenger, and the oral orgasm Lucretia My Reflection, a Sisters of Mercy cover. The mid-section is laden with powerful, epic ballads, featuring some of Dane’s best work. The final section is highlighted by a passionate Paul Simon cover, Patterns, and a classic Nevermore-style thrasher, Equilibrium.
The production style and sound is very similar to Nevermore it makes me wonder if it is Dane’s input that makes Nevermore sound the way they do, or if Nevermore’s sound is simply rubbing off on him. Hearing and album of such quality coming from Warrel in a solo effort makes me froth at the mouth of the thought of how good the next Nevermore album will be. All in all there really isn’t a bad song on the disc, but the album is far from perfect. I feel this album is just an opener, with a lot of room for the band to grow and mature, I think the masterpiece disc is two or three releases down the road.
If you’re a fan of head banging guitars, Warrel Dane, Nevermore, or cock-rock-fist-pumping heavy metal, get your hands on this,,, now.