Nevermore - The Politics of Ecstasy (1996)
Fantastic, tight thrash metal with numerous memorable classics. In other words, another great Nevermore album.
I got onboard the Nevermore bandwagon a long time after most of their fans. They only hit the scene around 1995 which is a few years after I’d pretty much given up on hearing any new good thrash metal bands. That’s a decision I now regret as this US band has been one of the brightest lights in thrash for well over a decade now. As soon as I was completely blown away by This Godless Endeavour in 2005, I knew instantly that I’d lived 10 years of life denying myself one of its greatest pleasures. The good news was that I had a long journey of discovering their earlier albums ahead, which began with the equally excellent Into the Mirror Black by Sanctuary (three members would go on to form Nevermore). The Politics of Ecstasy is the band’s second full length album after the self-titled debut (that doesn’t rate all that well on RYM), so seemed a good enough place to travel next.
Let’s get a few things straight before I go on though. Firstly, Nevermore are quite lightweight thrash metal. If you’re expecting a band like Nuclear Assault, Kreator or Slayer, you’re likely to be disappointed. There are undoubtedly thrash elements to most tracks on this album (and throughout their whole discography), but their music can just as easily be labelled intense heavy metal. Secondly, vocalist Warrel Dane is one of those vocalists that you either love or hate. I personally love his clean, emotional style and think he takes what would otherwise be merely above average music and puts it on a whole new level of excellence. Others claim him to be the vocal equivalent of the antichrist (in a bad way) but then I can only assume they haven’t heard Sean Killian from Vio-Lence. With all of this said, let’s look at The Politics of Ecstasy.
From my very first listen I knew I was going to love this; it was only a question of whether it would meet the standard set for me by This Godless Endeavour. The riffs are cool throughout and have that modern edge to them, but despite the standard thrash metal blueprint, riffs are not always the focus for Nevermore. It’s all about memorable, entertaining song writing which means the band rarely get caught up in trying to smash the listener into submission or branch out into overly technical, progressive realms. Instead they concentrate on producing numerous tight and catchy tracks that let Warrel work his magic all over the place. When the band do display their technical ability, such as on 42147, they are clearly capable of stupendous musicianship and immensely creative writing, but then they’re just as likely to keep things simple yet emotional such as on The Passenger, which I have no problem with at all.
As is always the case, the leads are awesome and always serve a purpose within each track. The lyrics are excellent, intelligent and thought provoking. The drumming is tight and powerful if not particularly amazing. It’s everything I’d hoped it would be when pressing play and I can only imagine I’ll soon be struggling for superlatives when reviewing their next few releases. Highlights for me are The Seven Tongues of God, Next in Line, Lost, 42147 and epic closer The Learning. If a few of the remaining tracks hadn’t been slightly underwhelming (the title track and The Tiananmen Man are not really that special and Precognition is a worthless instrumental) then I would have been forced to give The Politics of Ecstasy full marks. As it is, this is a thoroughly engaging album that will get plenty of overdue play time in The Trickster’s den.
These guys must've been really into Timothy Leary and his books! Their first album had a song named after him. Then in this second album The Politics of Ecstasy, two tracks are named after a couple of his books/chapters, "The Seven Tongues of God" and the title track. Timothy Leary passed away a few months before this album was released, so if the band wanted to dedicate this album in memory of him, they should have.
Besides singer Warrel Dane's lyrics about Leary's beliefs, this album's music is somewhat between the power metal influences of their first album and the thrashy elements from later albums. This album is good, but not awesome as the next few!
The album gets to a steady start with the aforementioned "The Seven Tongues of God" and "This Sacrament", a heavy spectacular duo. "Next in Line" is one of Warrel Dane's best vocal performances, especially in the haunting chorus.
"Passenger" is a slower ballad. After an ambient prelude and a bit of narration, the band pulls off a nice guitar section in a slow and steady pace being paced throughout the rest of the song. Dane continues to shine with emotional vocals there. The title track has some moshing groove moments with thrashy riffing in the middle of the song. "Lost" has good vocals and tight riffing. "The Tiananmen Man" has a tongue twister of a song title, but it's a really good track with typical Nevermore heaviness. Another one of the awesome standouts of the album!
"Precognition" is a short interlude that, while not bad, is a low-light compared to all the other songs in the album. However it segues to "42147", a great song with more heavy riff-wrath. "The Learning" is the longest song created by Nevermore at almost 10 minutes. It starts with a haunting lead section and some of Dane's hallowed vocals before switching to the epic itself. Then after the song ends with 5 minutes of silence, there's a small distorted reprise of the title track.
This album is for fans of power metal and thrash metal. I used to be a power metal fan myself but I still like a little bit of power metal mixed with a more extreme genre I'm now into like thrash metal. It is an album that can be enjoyed by even the most demanding thrash metal fans. It's also a nice break from the grunge invasion in Seattle. Yes, this is an excellent album with lost of great riffs, vocals, and double-bass drumming. There's never a terrible moment, but it's not until their next album Dreaming Neon Black when Nevermore reaches their full potential....
Favorites: "The Seven Tongues of God", "This Sacrament", "Next in Line", "The Tiananmen Man", "The Learning"
I am not a fan of Nevermore. There's a positive and non-judgemental start to a review if ever I saw one. I find them to be reminiscent of high school metalheads the majority of whom liked thrash metal and one who wanted to be in a power metal band. Warrel Dane's fantastic vocal ability was an abrasive clash too far me, it just did not fit alongside the equally superb guitar work of Loomis. As good as they both were in their own way, they should never have been in a band together.
What The Politics of Ecstasy lacks in coherence it makes up for in effort. There's nothing forced here, the performances are juxtaposed to me yes, but at the same time they are of a sufficiently high standard to entertain me as they espouse quality musicianship delivered with obvious passion. Unfortunately there's just no me getting over the opposing styles. This is one of the most frustrating metal albums I have perhaps ever had to review.
There's lots of Pantera like lead work here and very similar rhythms also, with this prevalent to the point of me being constantly reminded of Cowboys from Hell throughout the record. I suppose we could argue that the vocals are what really set the sound apart from Anselmo and company, but again it is just too harsh a contrast even for that sake. Even in the album's more enjoyable moments there's still a cringey moment lurking around the corner somewhere to jump out and make me pull a distasteful face as some vocal passage seems to be completely out of sync with the rest of the arrangement.
Overall, this album just doesn't work for me even with the many offerings of rope it throws me, i just can't get on with it.
Progressive Metal (conventional)
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Thrash Metal (conventional)
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Heavy Metal (conventional)
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