NEVERMORE: A Retrospective Tribute to Their Discography and Frontman Warrel Dane
In light of Warrel Dane's recent passing, I thought it fitting to take an appreciative, closer look at the Nevermore catalogue spanning 1995-2010. An original blend of progressive, power metal, and thrash, the band was in its own league–thanks in large part to Dane's operatic, expressive vocal delivery and instantly recognizable timbre, and guitarist Jeff Loomis's technical mastery and tasteful execution.
Despite rumors of a reunion as recently as September of this year, we're now keenly aware of its impossibility. What we do have though, is an impressive discography from the band's beginnings in 1992 and first release in 1995, to their final release in 2010 and official hiatus. So, cheers to Nevermore and Warrel Dane, whose memory lives through the art he left behind.
Nevermore's self-titled debut album was released Valentine's Day, 1995 via Century Media Records. After Warrel Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard parted ways with their previous band, Sanctuary, a year prior, the pair went full-time with the new project. Jeff Loomis, former touring guitarist for Sanctuary, was recruited, alongside drummer Van Williams.
THE POLITICS OF ECSTASY
Inspired by Timothy Leary's book of the same name, The Politics of Ecstasy debuted in 1996 and was the first and only album to feature additional guitarist Pat O'Brien (Cannibal Corpse, Slayer). More or less stylistically equivalent to the previous self-titled release, Politics is a logical continuation of the early Nevermore timeline, though much more "thrash" than subsequent releases.
DREAMING NEON BLACK
A notable departure from the aggressiveness of The Politics of Ecstasy, much of 1999's Dreaming Neon Black is more emotional and subdued; frankly, it's downright morose in many instances. According to Dane, it was a loose concept album:
[The album is] a very simple story about a man who slowly goes insane after losing a woman that he was very close to. Progressive levels of insanity are expressed in the songs, he goes through phases of denial and self-blame, blaming God, then denouncing God. The ending is a little…tragic, a little depressing. Shakesperian. Everybody dies, it's all happy.
The story intensifies knowing that Dane was inspired by a former girlfriend who left him for a religious cult and essentially disappeared. Dreaming Neon Black, without a doubt, embodies this tragedy.
DEAD HEART IN A DEAD WORLD
Largely considered the band's magnum opus, 2000's Dead Heart in a Dead World has drawn comparisons to the darker/heavier elements of Queensrÿche, though I might argue it's in a class of its own. Certainly my favorite in their catalogue, bangers like "The Heart Collector," "Narcosynthesis," and "Believe in Nothing" are Nevermore classics. The album even features a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence." An inimitable album, no doubt.
ENEMIES OF REALITY
2003's Enemies of Reality was met with mixed reviews and criticism on everything from producer Kelly Gray's mix, to the perceived hooky/poppy-ness of the tracks themselves. While defined hooks may be the prog purist's mortal enemy, most listeners appreciate a solid ear worm. All that aside, I wouldn't say there's anything remotely "catchier" on Enemies of Reality that wasn't present in a track like "Believe in Nothing" from the previous album. And ultimately, the album's still pretty goddamn pissed. Dane had the following to say about it:
Enemies Of Reality was a difficult album to make. We were all going through a difficult time in our lives. We were all really fucking angry people, and I think that kind of shows on that album.
If you needed any, here's your evidence:
THIS GODLESS ENDEAVOR
Arguably their most polished work up until this point, This Godless Endeavor was produced by Andy Sneap in early 2005 for release later that year. Probably my second favorite record next to Dead Heart, the band's songwriting and technical capabilities are on full display here. Notably, it was featured at #88 in Guitar World's October 2006 100 greatest guitar albums list.
THE OBSIDIAN CONSPIRACY
Breaking a 5-year dry spell between releases, The Obsidian Conspiracy was Nevermore's final release in 2010 before announcing their hiatus the following year. Ultimately, the band would never reunite. Driven by a new sense of purpose after a long break, however, the album is a strong one overall, bearing no omission from their collected works. Dane reflected on the writing process:
These songs are full of newfound rage, lyrically and musically. Jeff Loomis has come up with some amazing new riffs that will no doubt please old and new fans alike. Also, I think the combination of Peter and Andy (production & mixing) will result in something very, very special
Likewise, Loomis spoke on the then-new material:
I think that with the new Nevermore, it still sounds like the band, but I think I'm giving Warrel a little bit more room this time around for more vocals rather than all the notey, kind of complex stuff and all that, so this time around it's just a little bit more wide open musically for him to really be able to do whatever he wants vocally this time around. So we'll see what happens. It's gonna be an interesting album for us, for sure.
While the world continues to spin without Warrel Dane, his musical contributions both in and outside of Nevermore are firm reminders of the indelible talent that he was. Rest easy, Warrel.