When a band releases its breakthrough album, the hype and expectations for the next album are huge. It’s a rare band that can consistently release awesome, well-thought out albums and not sacrifice originality or innovation. Nevermore is, without question, one of these bands. Enemies of Reality is a totally solid metal album that, while not totally perfect, feels fresh and imaginative, and conveys Nevermore’s overall vibe perfectly.
In 2000, neo-traditional metal band Nevermore released Dead Heart in a Dead World. This album was deemed “perfect” by respected magazine Kerrang!, and was raved and ranted about by various websites and magazines worldwide. The album basically came out of nowhere; Nevermore’s previous release, Dreaming Neon Black, was generally ignored in the mainstream metal community. You can imagine the hype when, three years later, Nevermore released a follow up to Dead Heart, called Enemies of Reality. Although I hadn’t heard DHIADW, I owned Dreaming Neon Black and This Godless Endeavour (Nevermore’s 2005 release), so when I bought Enemies I was certainly prepared to be wowed.
Nevermore further evolved their crushing trade on Enemies. On Dead Heart, they first experimented with seven string guitars, creating a heavier and, obviously, lower sound than they had formerly showcased. The guitar work on Enemies is far more suited to a seven string guitar. The riffs are lower, more dissonant and more rhythm-based than ever. On the opening track, “Enemies of Reality”, guitarists Jeff Loomis dances around his fretboard with precision and accuracy, churning out heavy-as-granite guitar lines and fleet-fingered solos. His soloing is his most jaw-dropping to date, ranging from all-out shredding on “Ambivalent” to slow soulful bends, like on “Who Decides”. At all points, the guitar parts seem perfect.
The drumming on the album is spectacular as well. Van Williams can really move his feet at times, and he adds quite a bit of energy to the music, especially on “Seed Awakening”. Although he is obviously very technically proficient, Van Williams never resorts to flashy, tiring drumbeats. He has a great feel on the drums, and he shows this on “Tomorrow Turned IntoYesterday”, when he alternates between weighty pounding and gentle mood-setting.
Warrell Dane, Nevermore’s vocalist, again contributes to the melodicism and soaring aspects of the music. One might think that such heavy, dissonant music would be ill-fitting to operatic-type vocals, but Warrel Dane compensates for everything. Due to the slightly heavier feel of this album, he often sings in a lower register than in past albums, and frequently adapts his voice to fit the mood of a part. On “I, Voyager”, he intonates like a robot, almost chanting over the raging rhythms Loomis weaves. On “Who Decides”, he softly croons during the verses, brandishing exquisite vocal harmonization. One problem I do have with his vocals is that sometimes his harmony lines seem to be strange and ill-suited to the music. For example, on “Create the Infinite”, during the chorus, it seems as if he doesn’t know exactly what to sing; his doubled vocals seem oddly centred. This is less frequent than on Nevermore’s other albums, however. Dane’s lyrics are also superb, with most of the album’s lyrics based around the theme of reality. In fact, it almost seems like a concept album sometimes, when lyrics recur, like “There is no stronger drug than reality”.
As on former releases, the band doesn’t stray from commercial music song structures, and the songs can be really catchy and hooky as a result. This is also one of the album’s downfalls, though. While Nevermore’s other releases have had epic songs and were packed with music, this album seems to be a bit too simplistic and unintelligent. With only nine songs, and only one song over five minutes, Enemies can feel too much like pop sometimes for my taste. Again, the poppy song structures and formulas can add to this effect. That said, every song on the album feels well-written and the listener gets the feeling that a lot of effort was put into it, overall.
The production on Enemies is nothing special, but there is a story behind the producing of this album. The original Enemies of Reality was considered to be terribly mixed by most, with the guitars often melding with the drum sound to create a muddy, sludgy mess. A year later, Nevermore re-released this album remixed by Andy Sneap. He did a fantastic job to say the least. The album is now as clean sounding as any other Nevermore release, and the drum sound especially is improved. I completely recommend the re-release over the original, even if the original does have cooler cover art.
Nevermore’s Line-up, as of 2003:
Jeff Loomis- Guitars
Jim Sheppard- Bass
Van Williams- Drums
“Enemies of Reality”
-Great, catchy songwriting
-Muddy production (only on the original)
-Occasionally feels like a bid for popularity
-Harmony vocals are sometimes off
If you’re looking for a fresh, original-sounding metal album with some fantastic instrumental playing, you owe it to yourself to pick this, and every other Nevermore album up right away. Although Enemies of Reality lacks some of the sophistication and detail of other Nevermore albums, it is still one of the best albums of the last three years.