Jeff Loomis – Plains of Oblivion
Label: (Century Media)
Release Date: April 9, 2012 (EU) / April 10, 2012 (N.A.)
Being the Nevermore fanatic that I am, I was obviously extremely stoked to review Jeff Loomis’ second offering, the excellently titled Plains of Oblivion. There really aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to sufficiently describe the utterly jaw dropping virtuosity on display, but that goes without saying I suppose.
The obvious downside of being a Nevermore fan is that everything both Warrel Dane (Nevermore, Sanctuary) and Jeff Loomis put out on their own ultimately feels a bit incomplete without either of them complementing each other. As much as I realize that Loomis’ solo output is meant to be looked at objectively and as a completely separate entity to his former band, there’s just no escaping that nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right.
That feeling is magnified many times over during the trio of “Tragedy And Harmony”, “Surrender” and ‘’Chosen Time’’ which feature guest vocal appearances by ex-Emperor nutter Ihsahn and Christine Rhoades, who incidentally provided the haunting backing vocals on Nevermore’s magnum opus Dreaming Neon Black.
While both turn in fairly solid performances, even the staunchest Warrel Dane critic would have to admit that in an ideal world, he and Jeff belong together. It’s pretty much like playing Contra alone. Its incredible fun but without a buddy next to you blasting alien life forms to smithereens it just doesn’t feel the same. That, unfortunately, is the exact feeling that seems to emanate from this record, although guitar purists around the world would probably feel otherwise.
Even so, this is still far and away a stunner of an album and in places even tops the excellence of Zero Order Phase. While Loomis’ debut was a little more consistent overall, Plains of Oblivion seems to favor slightly more off kilter arrangements and an onus on creating a genuine ‘atmosphere’ for lack of a better word.
The album is peppered with guest appearances from a veritable who’s who of shred deities. Unfortunately, they all don’t quite seem to hit the proverbial bulls-eye. The opening track ‘Mercurial’ featuring guitar legend Marty Friedman could in all honesty have been so much more. While both Loomis and Friedman indulge in their trademark fretboard wizardry, the track sounds like something left over from Dead Heart in a Dead World.
On the other hand ‘’The Ultimatum’’ featuring the majestic Tony MacAlpine is an absolute scorcher from start to finish. Imagine painting a mural of the solar system using only the notes from your guitar and you’ll get what I mean. Simply astonishing.
Further down we come across another ex-Megadeth guitar maestro, Chris Poland, on the phenomenal “Continuum Drift” while Loomis’ would be successor, the absurdly talented Attila Voros, lends his considerable chops on “Requiem for the Living”. Both tracks feature some of the most mind-numbing shred you can possibly imagine, all set to a background of Loomis’ trademark ‘sentient machine’ riffs (as I like to call them).
There is a clear reason why Loomis’ is regarded as one of the most gifted and respected guitarists and composers in metal. There is clear heart and emotion behind every note he plays and that is exactly what separates him from the multitude of mindless shredders out there. Look no further than the gorgeous ‘’Rapture’’ and the grey cell melting insanity of ‘’Escape Velocity’’ and ‘’Sybilline Origin’’ for unquestionable proof of this.
Despite that nagging feeling that this could very well be a stellar Nevermore album with Warrel Dane’s voice wrapping each track in a thick blanket of melancholy, you definitely can’t go wrong with picking this up because at the end of the day Plains of Oblivion is musically one of the most stunning albums you’re likely to hear all year.
Bottom Line: If guys like Jeff Loomis don’t deserve your support then no one on this damn planet does. Period!