A number of years back, I went to my local record store looking for some metal that was sorta’ like Iced Earth. I had just “discovered” Iced Earth and I figured there were more bands like them, so I asked the Counter Chimp if he could recommend something that was close. He handed me a copy of Nevermore’s Dead Heart, in a Dead World and said, “Have you heard these guys? They’re just like Iced Earth.” I said I had not and hastily threw my hard earned cash in his general direction, and raced to the Pope-mobile so that I could immerse myself in the grandness of the next Iced Earth. Well . . . in short, I should have turned my sled right around and doled out some physical punishment on this hapless slob. But, being the peace loving cat that I am, I tucked my tail between my legs and found sanctuary in my other purchases of the day.
Waveriders, let me tell you. Things happen for a reason and I believe that the hapless Counter Chimp deceived me for a reason. He knew something that I didn’t at the time. Nevermore’s Dead Heart, in a Dead World is heads and shoulders better than anything that Iced Earth has even contemplated doing. It just took some perspective to actually see that. As much as it hurts my pride to be lied to in such a way, I actually feel indebted to this guy. All is forgiven, Chimp.
Dead Heart is thinking man’s metal. A bit on the proggy side, which was probably why it took me a few listens to get into, the musical complexity isn’t all that overwhelming. I’ve found something actually comforting about Warrel Dane’s vocal crooning and Jeff Loomis’ searing guitar work. The off time rhythm’s and progressive metal leanings tear the accessibility out of this album, though it’s these same aspects that make it an addictive listen. With every subsequent listen to the album, something new magically appears in the music, and like a sudoku puzzle, challenges the way I think.
Singer Warrel Dane is next in line to the metal vocal hierarchy of Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, and Geoff Tate. This dude has so much control and range that it’s silly. When he takes the deeper approach towards the songs, his voice is instantly distinguishable. The moment you hear Dane belt it out on “Narcosynthesis” you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s full of nuance and clearly his own voice, as he doesn’t sound like he’s trying to emulate any other vocalist. Feel the goose bumps engulf your flesh when he gets to the chorus. Amidst the chaotic thrall of musical notes that the band casually tosses around, the vocals are the calm through it all.
The intro for “Inside Four Walls” blasts us with a fury of double bass drums and detuned riffing before careening into the first verse. Drummer Van Williams shows us his acrobatic skills as he practically fills every nook and cranny with a beat of a drum or crash of a cymbal. Yet, through the chaotic din of sound, he still manages to keep it musical. Bassist Jim Sheppard creates a wall of noise that’s only penetrated by the squealing guitar heroics of Jeff Loomis. If you’re new to Nevermore, “Inside Four Walls” is a good introduction to what the band excels at.
“Evolution 169” is a symposium of musical dynamics. From the opening crash of instruments that announce their arrival to the melodic chorus, then back into the intro riff. The break going in and out of the guitar solo is filled with note bending madness, which isn’t to say the solo itself is sane. It’s wondrously filled with hyper fast scale runs, but pulled off as clean as they get. Dane’s passionate vocal performance also gets high marks.
Quite possibly the most accessible tune is “The Heart Collector.” Dane’s vocals, reminiscent of Geoff Tate, croon over an acoustic guitar before Loomis decides to trade that in for his electric model for an outstanding chorus. Take note of Sheppard’s bass work as the band comes out of the first chorus. Gotta’ love how it compliments the acoustic guitars as they return to the tune! I guess one could call this a power ballad in the sense that it’s got the softer verse to heavy chorus formula working for it, but that’s where any similarities come to a grinding halt. It’s too bad ass a tune to be called a true power ballad. Great performances from the entire band on this one!
“The Sound of Silence” took me by complete surprise. The beginning strains of the classic song by Paul Simon kick the track off, but suddenly, any resemblance to the song vanishes as the chaotic Nevermore sound takes over. Basically, the band kept the original Paul Simon lyrics and rearranged the music to their own liking. Pretty fucking awesome.
“Insignificant” and “The River Dragon Has Come” are also noteworthy tunes to Dead Heart, in a Dead World. It’s definitely an album that takes some time to truly appreciate, but man . . . it’s so worth it. I’ve heard some people call the band pretentious. Whatever. My feelings are that if a band has the musical ability to make something over the top while retaining some sort of soul, then more power to them. Nevermore are highly accomplished musicians who run circles around the majority of the musicians on the circuit these days. I’m not saying this is for everybody, you just gotta’ like some key elements to your music to appreciate it. You pretty much have to like high level musicianship, intricate compositions, and complex arrangements. If you don’t mind music that makes you think, then Nevermore is definitely a band worth investigating. If you hate metal, then I’m surprised that you got this far in the review, but I thank you for spending the last few minutes reading this. - Pope JTE
Buy here: Dead Heart, in a Dead World