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Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy

The Obsidian Conspiracy
by Erika Walberg, Mike Novak at 09 May 2010, 10:05 PM

***Erika: 8/10***
The first thing that struck me listening to this record is that the production differs significantly from “This Godless Endeavour” and the rest of the albums Andy Sneap has set his signature on. This time Peter Witchers turned the knobs. Last time when NEVERMORE let someone else than Andy record and mix and record the album (“Enemies Of Reality”) no one was especially impressed with the result. Yes, it’s clear that this isn’t an Andy production and to start with I was disappointed with the thick layers of music in the production. That crisp and clear sound of NEVERMORE has, makes them very special, but this sound is absolutely more mainstream. The more the record has spun the production settles and when the songs have gotten printed in the cortex it actually feels a little strange listening to the old stuff. The more atmospheric, sort of Black Metal production suits NEVERMORE’s music just as good as Andy’s clear mix. So Peter has done a great job again, just as he did with Warrel Dane’s solo album “Praises To The War Machine”. If people give the album a fair chance I doubt anyone will be disappointed with the mix of “The Obsidian Conspiracy”. Sure, it differs a lot from the older records but bands are allowed to try new things, develop and change a working receipt.

The production is one thing, the actual songs is the next. Of course, this is a great album. The “Obsidian Conspiracy” starts out with a quite typical NEVERMORE mid-tempo tune, “The Termination Proclamation” which features both a great vocal line from Warrel and a nice chugga-riff from Jeff. “Your Poison Throne” features the first odd arrangement with the hockey-sing-a-long chants of “Rise, Rise, Rise”, a really heavy piece. “Moonrise (Through The Mirrors Of Death)” starts off really heavy with a quite mean vocal line that flips over in a really beautiful vocal line with the same dark feeling as much of “Dreaming Neon Black”. This one could easily be a new live favorite. After the first spin of the album I remembered “And The Maiden Spoke” as soft song, don’t know what that came from though. Sure the chorus line is very melodic but the whole song is built over a really complex and hard riff, after a few spins one of my favorites of the albums. If “Moonrise” has resemblances with “Dreaming Neon Black”, then “And The Maiden Spoke” is absolutely more “Politics Of Ecstasy”. “Emptiness Unobstructed” sounds very modern and apart from Warrel’s vocals and way of express himself during the ballad parts this one sounds very little NEVERMORE compared to the rest of the album. Not a starter favorite but it absolutely grows.

“The Blue Marble And The New Soul”, an immediate favorite and a real NEVERMORE ballad. Warrel sounds amazing. His voice is in general a little deeper and harsher on this album. On this specific song he sounds more passionate and dramatic than ever. “Without Morals” is another quite typical NEVERMORE mid-tempo tune. ”The Day You Built The Wall” starts off with a goth-smelling riff and vocal line. It sounds more like something from Warrel’s solo than NEVERMORE. Still, a very good song! “She Comes In Colors” starts off with an acoustic part which turns over to a heavy mid-tempo riff. This is a quite strangely arranged song, great guitarwork and great vocals but no real flow to the song. The closure of the album and title track “The Obsidian Conspiracy” a great, heavy, complex track but it doesn’t rise up to its predecessor’s quality.

I really wish I could say more about the lyrics because that’s such a big part of the NEVERMORE music; the songs on their own will not tell the whole story. There are some really cool phrases that stick immediately but it’s hard to make everything out just by listening to what Warrel sings. The thing that struck me is that many of the vocal lines and the riffs can be recognized from older albums. I don’t say that NEVERMORE has copied themselves and created another “Dead Heart”, “Politics”, “Enemies” or so but riffs and arrangements feels typical NEVERMORE. Not from a specific era, a little here and there and that I’ve never felt before with a NEVERMORE album. If their creativity has stagnated the next album will tell, for now it’s just a small note in the corner. In general “The Obsidian Conspiracy” is a very good album but it’s not the smack in the face as “This Godless Endeavour” was a couple of years back, if it will grow to another masterpiece time will tell.

***Mike: 7/10***
Ah, the wait is finally over. I am surprised that it took so long for NEVERMORE to record a follow-up to their critically acclaimed masterpiece, “This Godless Endeavor.” I would have thought that they would have wanted to capitalize on the buzz generated, but I guess Warrel Dane and Jeff Loomis thought it more prudent to whet their appetites by putting out (surprisingly good) solo albums instead. I thought, ‘perhaps this wait is not a bad thing, SYMPHONY X took five years for “Paradise Lost” and now that is one of my favorite albums of all time.’

Sadly, I was so put off by the opening salvo of “The Termination Proclamation” and “Your Poison Throne” that I was not able to listen to the rest of the album for several days. The former song is just so middle-of-the-road…a stark contrast to other album openers like “The Seven Tongues of God,” “Enemies of Reality” and “Born.” “Your Poison Throne” seems to be an attempt at winning over fans of metalcore. The focus of the song is the “Rise! Rise! Rise!” line that appears throughout song, with everything else taking a backseat. Warrel Dane sounds less like Warrel Dane and more like a generic mainstream metal singer/yeller. Maybe this song will take on new life when performed live, but I doubt it.

Yet, despite the first two songs and some other mediocre material sprinkled throughout, we have a few songs where NEVERMORE lives up to expectations. The title track is an absolute monster, the type of high-energy fist-pumper which is right up there with the best of them. This is each band member’s best performance on the album. “Moonrise (Through Mirrors of Death)” in addition to having a totally bad-ass name, has the feel of something off of “Dead Heart in a Dead World”; the song itself is rather straightforward, but Warrel Dane sings some very memorable melody lines. “And The Maiden Spoke” has plenty of lead work from Jeff Loomis along with some well-used guitar effects, and Dane does a superb job as well.

One thing that is in stark contrast to the preceding albums is how straightforward “The Obsidian Conspiracy” is compared to the increasingly technical previous two albums. I cannot tell whether new producer Peter Wichers (yes, the same mediocre songwriter that currently waters down SOILWORK) is to blame, or whether he, as well as this simpler music, is a result of a conscious decision by the band to make themselves more accessible (this might also be the reason that the seven-string guitars sound less venomous than on their other albums). Steve Smyth is missed here as well; he wrote several great songs on “This Godless Endeavor” and without his solos alongside Loomis’, this album seems lacking in guitar solos (although this did not happen on “Dead Heart” or “Enemies of Reality”, the other two albums where Loomis was the only guitarist).

Despite the fact that this album is somewhat of a letdown and pales in comparison to their previous albums, I’ll still probably be a first-day buyer. There is enough good material to justify the purchase price. I just hoped for more after five years of waiting.

3 Star Rating

  1. The Termination Proclamation
  2. Your Poison Throne
  3. Moonrise (Through Mirrors Of Death)
  4. And The Maiden Spoke
  5. Emptiness Unobstructed
  6. The Blue Marble And The New Soul
  7. Without Morals
  8. The Day You Built The Wall
  9. She Comes In Colors
  10. The Obsidian Conspiracy
Warrel Dane - Vocals
Jeff Loomis - Guitars
Jim Sheppard - Bass
Van Williams - Drums
Record Label: Century Media


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Edited 27 March 2023

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