Nevermore - Dead Heart in a Dead World (2000)Release ID: 2265

Nevermore - Dead Heart in a Dead World (2000) Cover
Xephyr Xephyr / May 02, 2023 / Comments 0 / 0

A Succinct, Hefty Blend

Despite being a prominent name in the Progressive Metal scene throughout the 2000's, I never found I had the time for Nevermore after The Godless Endeavor failed to impress me. There's a chance I was having a rough day, so I wanted to give the band another shot to fully decide whether Nevermore was for me or not and I ended up settling on Dead Heart in a Dead World, which manages to mix Progressive Metal ideas atop a rawer Heavy Metal and Thrash base much more successfully than anything else I've heard from them. Seasoned Metal listeners can pick out a plethora of influences and similarities within Nevermore's sound, but the combination of it all turns out to be very unique and, honestly, dark and heavier than I imagined. Progressive Metal is a very broad genre and probably has the widest range of heft for any Metal subgenre. Considering Caligula's Horse and Meshuggah can both be categorized as Progressive Metal, I'm always on the edge of my seat when I click play on a new album to see what the approach will be, and renowned guitarist Jeff Loomis wastes no time on the opening track "Narcosynthesis" showcasing some seriously pummeling and Djent-y chug riffing. I somehow always seem to forget Loomis had his rise to fame in Nevermore, which is especially embarrassing considering I've spun his solo record Plains of Oblivion quite a bit as well as pointed and shouted as I've seen him show up as a guest guitarist on many other modern Metal albums. I had some big hopes that Dead Heart in a Dead World would be able to pin the band in my memory and general rotation a bit more. 

The Progressive Metal distinction always seems to get a bit muddled except for the extremely classic examples of the subgenre, and Dead Heart in a Dead World is no exception given its snappy and straightforward songwriting and use of slower ballads to break up the album. Nevermore are able to rotate around their Heavy, Power, and Groove Metal influences to great effect to keep the listener engaged yet remain tight and sensible with how each song progresses. Loomis is able to take generally simplistic riff writing, yet make the transitions buttery smooth and satisfying, like the switch-up on "Evolution 169" despite the return to the chorus at the end sounding a little weak. I think it takes a bit for Loomis to really loosen up the 7-string as the first two tracks are entirely centered around chugging grooves, but "Inside Four Walls" showcases some nasty leads and solos that are properly built on the backing chugs. The vocal melodies sound a tad strange to me on the chorus, as if something isn't quite resolving the way it should, but vocalist Warrel Dane delivers a great performance nonetheless. I want to say that Dane was the reason The Godless Endeavor never landed for me, so I'm glad to say that I enjoy him much, much more on Dead Heart in a Dead World. Much like any other vocalist that has a very outspoken or theatrical style, it can be hit or miss depending on the person, album, or even on the day, but I think that Dane's performance is pretty fantastic throughout. His voice is reminiscent blend of many, many other Metal singers to my ears ranging from the more over the top Power Metal acts to more a more classic Heavy Metal delivery; even a bit of Ozzy on "Evolution 169" and "The Heart Collector". His theatrical delivery is able to separate him from the pack though, and I especially can't believe that the screamed Power Metal vocals on "We Disintegrate" weren't done by a guest vocalist. 

Dead Heart in a Dead World has a consistent and satisfying theme as it is more evil and dark sounding than a lot of other Progressive Metal out there. It keeps a rawer and larger sound thanks to the production supplying ample space between the guitar and bass in the very front of the mix, giving the riffs a bit more body and punch even on the more complex guitar melodies. "The River Dragon Has Come" is the highlight of the album for me since it showcases Nevermore's adept songwriting through the best riff progression and guitar solos on the album, as well as Dane's strongest chorus work. "The Heart Collector" is the obvious standout ballad, making "Insignificant" feel a bit redundant, but I still can't say that Dane's vocals are able to carry these stripped down songs for me. The second half of Dead Heart in a Dead World is fairly weak for me overall, although the closer ends everything off on a suitably aggressive and dark note. It becomes a little too much of the same despite all the songs being above average quality. The cover of "The Sound of Silence" is a complete reimagination of the song to the point where it's almost unrecognizable, so while I always seem to question the inclusion of covers in albums I can't be too upset at this one since they really, really go for it in terms of heaviness. 

The good news is that Dead Heart in a Dead World has definitely put Nevermore on the map for me, although I don't think it's a true classic. I've always seem Loomis' name everywhere so, thankfully, I can stop utterly forgetting where he originally came from. Nevermore's heavier take on an eclectic blend of Groove, Power, and Heavy Metal is still able to stand out today thank to solid songwriting and a powerful vocal performance, but this album loses way too much steam for me in the second half. Its five to six minute song structure leaves a bit to be desired in terms of Progressive complexity considering Nevermore already shows they can write some fantastic transitions that could be expanded on, but approachable Progressive Metal that stays tight and focused rat her than meandering every which way still has a ton of merit given how well it's played here. I'll be interested to see how my initial opinions on The Godless Endeavor change after getting a bit more acclimated to Nevermore's sound.

Daniel Daniel / August 26, 2021 / Comments 0 / 0

This might sound really strange but even though I’ve been familiar with Seattle’s Nevermore since the very beginning of their career & have generally regarded them as a class act, I’d never actually checked out their most celebrated release in 2000’s “Dead Heart In A Dead World” until now. In fact, it might just be the ONLY Nevermore album that I hadn’t checked out which is nothing short of mind-boggling. Don’t ask me why though because I have no idea. I guess circumstances have just conspired against me but better late than never. I didn’t get around to their amazing third album “Dreaming Neon Black” until a decade after it was released either but it totally blew me away & I still regard it as a genuine classic to this day so the idea of an even more highly praise-worthy follow-up was something that left me genuinely excited.

From the outset, there are a couple of things worth noting about 2000’s “Dead Heart In A Dead World”. Firstly, 1996’s “The Politics Of Ecstasy” & 1999’s “Dreaming Neon Black” were both dual guitar efforts however their fourth album would be the first Nevermore record since their self-titled debut where lead guitarist Jeff Loomis has been the sole axeman & this sees the band having never sounded more tight & focused. Jeff’s lead work is simply outstanding & is the clear highlight of the album with a lot of attention to detail having been shown in his note selection, tone, phrasing & the presentation of his lead work within the context of the production. It’s really paid off too although I struggle to see how this material would have been reproduced in a live environment without the assistance of a second guitarist. Perhaps they recruited one for the purpose. I’m not too sure.

The second thing worth mentioning is that “Dead Heart In A Dead World” would be the first Nevermore record to make use of seven-string guitars & this is important because not only has it changed the tone of the album but it’s also had a noticeable impact on the stylistic direction too. Don’t get me wrong. This is still pretty obviously a Nevermore release but the style of the riffs has moved away from the thrashier approach that was taken on previous works & has morphed into a heavily down-tuned & crushingly heavy groove metal monster that sounds a lot more like Pantera & Machine Head than it does Metallica or Slayer. It would seem pretty obvious to me that this is the result of Loomis having experimented with his new instrument & finding that a chuggier & more rhythmic bottom-string approach works a treat when trying to harness the additional lower register he now had available to him. Throw in a seriously tight & brilliantly executed rhythm section & present it with a vibrant & super-precise Andy Sneap production job & you’ve got a particularly potent metal arsenal on your hands. The only question is whether that particular sound appeals to you as much as Nevermore’s previous work. I think the answer to that is no for me personally. “Dead Heart In A Dead World” is certainly a high quality release in its own right & the tracklisting is not only extremely consistent but is also studded with genuine highlights. It’s just that those highlights rarely take me to the same stratospheric levels as the ones on its predecessor & I’d suggest that this is primarily a taste thing. Front man Warrel Dane does a great job at riding the wave of energy that the band were summoning but he can occasionally be over-shadowed by the ridiculous quality of the instrumentation going on around him. Drummer Van Williams has had an absolute blinder here & I particularly love his ride cymbal work. He really is a human metronome & Sneap has got the drum sound absolutely spot on for this type of music. In fact, the bass & drums are so tightly entwined & in sync that it’s hard to think of them as different instruments.

The end result of all of this is hard to categorize to be honest as it doesn’t seem to fit comfortably into any of the usual boxes. The common consensus seems to be that it sits somewhere between progressive metal & classic heavy metal though but I’d like to dispute that. If you put this album on next to Iron Maiden, Dio or Judas Priest then you’ll very quickly realise that they don’t have all that much in common. This music is much chunkier & heavier than 99% of the more conventional heavy metal bands you’ll find & the down-tuned tone & rhythmic approach to the riff structures sees it sitting much more comfortably under the groove metal tag. Is it progressive? Weeellll… not in the traditional sense of the term as it’s not particularly technical or spacey however I can’t deny that the clinical approach to the execution & the super-crisp production job give it a noticeably progressive feel & that’s enough for me to make a call on a progressive groove metal tag for this record. It reminds me of some of Devin Townsend’s records in many ways as I’ve often felt that his releases don’t sound particularly progressive but I fail to find any more suitable terms to describe them.

If you love impeccably produced & executed metal music then you’ll no doubt really enjoy “Dead Heart In A Dead World”. It’s a classy release from an extremely talented group of musicians who know exactly what they’re doing & go about flexing their creative muscles with an effortless charm. There are no weak tracks included but I can’t deny that there are a couple that don’t interest me as much as others (see “We Disintegrate” & “The Heart Collector”) which sees me stopping just short of reaching for my higher scores. The cover version of “The Sound Of Silence” was a real surprise though. I immediately assumed that I’d hate it given my general aversion for the original & similarly bad experiences with other attempts to tackle it however Nevermore's version takes an enormous amount of creative license in presenting itself as one of the heaviest inclusions on the tracklisting which results in it sitting just behind album highlight “Inside Four Walls” for my favourite track on a very strong & professionally put together release.

For fans of Communic, “Shadow Work”-period Warrel Dane & “The Year The Sun Died”-era Sanctuary.


Release info

Release Site Rating

Ratings: 6 | Reviews: 2


Release Clan Rating

Ratings: 5 | Reviews: 1


Cover Site Rating

Ratings: 5


Cover Clan Rating

Ratings: 2

Dead Heart in a Dead World
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