Review Summary: Nevermore refine their sound with devastating effect
Nevermore are not a love-on-first-listen band. They do not make for a good casual jam and may require a fair investment of time before their dramatic vocals and somewhat dissonant approach to riffage grows to a comfortable level. If you have a high threshold for such things, feel free to disregard and plunge in. I was lucky enough to have familiarised myself Nevermore when I picked up this album, and as such it took me on a ride I’m not going to forget any time soon.
Nevermore’s M.O. has always been to kick things off with Jeff Loomis’ crushing riffs and razor-sharp solos before depressing them into oblivion with Warrel Dane’s operatic, doom-laden vocals. This Godless Endeavor
proceeds true to form; the core elements of the band’s sound are still present, but they are more focused and clearly presented than on much of the band's past output. It's also a consistent listen - there are no real weak links here, only songs that can’t reach the heights of the album’s strongest moments, and the best parts are absolutely fantastic.
The album starts with one of Nevermore’s best-known songs, "Born". It opens with a thunderstorm riff full of momentum and darkness, setting an accurate precedent for the album to come. This track's verses feature some of Dane’s most ominous, soul-tearing vocals, as he utilizes the lower regions of his vast range (five octaves?); this is somewhat uncommon for a Nevermore track, which is a shame because it works a treat here. "Born" is tense and frantic, but breaks into a doozy of a melodic chorus and lands as an early highlight.
Almost every other song contributes something memorable to the album's steadfast momentum, sequenced excellently for a cohesive experience. "Final Product" boasts a brilliant tapped solo, "Sentient 6" and "Sell My Heart For Stones" both slow down the pace and introduce acoustic guitars, and the former has both an excellent transition into a heavy outro and a soaring chorus. "Medicated Nation" is notable, if for nothing else, for Warrel Dane’s seething line “Did you remember to feed me while I was broken and bleeding?”, a chilling and disarming moment that captures his style in an instant, "The Holocaust of Thought" is a short instrumental palette cleanser that gives the bass a brief moment of prominence, and "The Psalm of Lydia’s" solos are a force for any aspiring guitarist to reckon with. Finally, "A Future Uncertain" starts with a somewhat innocuous clean intro, before developing into one of the album’s most desperate, apocalyptic moments.
However, two songs in particular stand out above the others. "My Acid Words" is my favourite song on the album; everything is put together perfectly, from the riffs, which are in a league of their own, to a gorgeous, dramatic bridge that injects a sense of hope into the album's wider scheme of desolation, only to shatter it with a no nonsense beatdown that plays to the lowest common denominator of the band's trademark seven-string guitars with delicious crudeness.
The other song is the title track, "This Godless Endeavour". This song is the apex of the whole album, excelling in all of its nine minutes, from the mysterious introduction (“And on the open road...”) to the explosion of furious riffs that takes place throughout most of the song, to one of Dane’s most bitter performances yet (the “consume, conform” section conveys so much vehemence that you can practically feel him spitting it at you through the speakers), to the section when Loomis loses patience with mere riffs and undercuts Dane’s vocals with a punishing set of sweeps, to the climactic ending, at which “The sky has opened!” brings the twisted march of the album to a jarring halt. It's a fantastic epic and the perfect closer for this album.
Special mention must also go to the talents of Van Williams, whose athletic drumming is a force to be reckoned with and a suitable launchpad for the album's many lurching riffs, and Steve Smyth, whose rhythm guitar skills complement Loomis perfectly. Bassist Jim Sheppard is not particularly noticeable when compared to the rest of his bandmates, but since he wrote The Holocaust of Thought, it’s fair to say he pulls his weight and might have benefitted from more balanced writing in other tracks..
This album is not without weaknesses. The most obvious shortfall is "Bittersweet Feast", which lacks the distinctive quality that every other track brings to the table. There's the aforementioned inaudible bass, and – despite the acoustics in four songs and the use of an interlude song – the album still feels a little homogenous, operating on a slightly more narrow wavelength than, say, Dreaming Neon Black
. Otherwise, This Godless Endeavor
is a resounding success. Highly recommended.