This Godless Endeavor
(Century Media) Enslain Magazine Volume 2, Issue 1 Rarely do you hear an album that invigorates the appreciation of music upon first listen. Easily the best record this year, "This Godless Endeavor" is the essence of what metal was always intended to be: fiercely heavy, brilliantly technical, subtley melancholic, and meaningful. Nevermore have always possessed elements of this formula, but have achieved the winning mixture by combining the dark sensibilities of "Dreaming Neon Black" the sharp production of "Dead Heart in a Dead World" and the memorable songwriting of "Enemies of Reality." This is the album that Neverheadz have been hoping for, and the metal world has unconsciously been longing for.
Having finally stabilized their 5-piece line-up, Jeff Loomis and Steve Smyth make such a strong songwriting duo. Each song is arranged masterfully, having an appropriate balance of blazing guitar leads, playful melodies, and catchy hooks. And the solos are exactly what solos should be. Technically advanced while not being pretentious, they blend into the song like they are supposed to be there. Not a song goes by without at least one solo; Loomis and newcomer Smyth trade off, each with an identifiable and complementary style. Arguably more impressive than the solos is the lead guitarwork. The individual note strumming found in songs like "Born" is swift and elaborate, making for a uniquely mind-blowing experience. The guitarwork on this record is just such a treat for the ears and the mind to process and absorb. It is unrivaled in its ability to combine technique and style to create a sound that is delightfully complex and memorable.
The rhythm section of Van Williams and Jim Sheppard also finds a more prominent role on this release. With creative and ultratight percussion being essential for their sound, Van blasts through this record with nothing short of a phenomenal display of double-bass madness and playful fills. Jim, who also writes a couple of the album's songs including the instrumental "The Holocaust of Thought," provides a solid foundation and intense heaviness to the production.
Nevermore's vocals have always been a focal element and Warrel does a fantastic job on this record, incorporating some rougher vocals into the mix along with his signature clean vocal. Warrel's voice has held up through decades of abuse, and still his performance is on par with his best works. His vocal lines are passionate and charismatic, and the strength and clarity of his voice can drive you into hypnosis. And the lyrics are so poignant, dealing with a variety of relevant topics with convincing arguments, delivered with powerful conviction. Their first single "Final Product" uses a intensely declared anaphora to drive the meaning into the listener's head. Another well-written lyric is "Sentient 6" which deals with the conflict of artificial intelligence from the perspective of a manufactured "being" in an emotional and compelling way. It is more than the words that are written, but the personification of the concept that Warrel takes on in each song that makes them remarkable and effective.
It's easy to listen to this album and enjoy the catchy rhythms and sing-along melodies, but letting it in completely, and reflecting on each technique and subtle sound is so much more rewarding. There's just no weak point on this record, no song that you're likely to skip past. Instead, after each song, you might be as tempted as I am to rewind and replay it. "This Godless Endeavor" is just a masterpiece, plain and simple. It's the product of years of experience, persistence, unique vision, and the ability to overcome numerous hardships. There was a time not long ago where it seemed their career was going downhill, with personal crises, a lack of support, and a poorly produced record. Not only did they dig themselves out of that slump, but they've created a piece of work that is flawless, sophisticated, and deeply satisfying.