Sound — 5
Let me just start off by saying that I'm a huge Nevermore fan. They've been one of my favourite band's ever since I first picked up "This Godless Endeavor" in 2005. The combination of Jeff Loomis' amazing riffs, Van William's inventive drumming, Jim Sheppard's solid basswork, Steve Smyth's creative chord work and aintense vocals just made that album stick in my mind for so long. The band just knew how to write such epic songs. With all that in mind, this is what makes this album both interesting, and boring as watching paint dry. Jeff Loomis' first solo attempt enforces the utter and total power of Jeff Loomis, but also how much of a one trick pony he really is. When you listen to great solo albums (or even just instrumentals), the music should feel like it has vocals. The riffs should speak for themselves. It should never feel like it needs vocals, but that's exactly what Zero Order Phase feels like. It just feels like an incomplete Nevermore album. Don't get me wrong, Jeff shreds. Oh boy, does he ever shred. He shreds all over the place on this album, but that's all he does. He seems to have written an album made 2 or 3 riffs a song, and then tacked pointless shredding over the top. I think this album just proves how much Jeff needs the rest of Nevermore. Also, without space for vocals, he seems to have lost a bit of momentum with structure as some of the songs just downright don't work in the structure they're in. "Opulent Maelstrom" being a key example. Jeff Loomis is indeed a magnificent guitarist, but without Warrel, Jim, and Van behind him, that's all he is. A guitarist without a purpose.
Lyrics — 3
As an instrumental album, obviously there are no lyrics. That being said, as I pointed out earlier, a truly well written isntrumental album shouldn't feel like it needs vocals and this album does. It feels like one huge solo section from a Nevermore song. And in small doses, Jeff Loomis is possibly one of the guitarists in the world, but left to his own devices he just feels like another shredder with a 7-string.
Overall Impression — 4
I feel really bad, being so harsh on someone I idolise, but in all honesty, as someone who loves every single Nevermore song written to this day, I didn't enjoy this album at all. There are so many moments that are just perfect, and then they just disappear into a midst of shredding. So many sections where I expected Warrel to ascend through the mire and scream for salvation to the heavens, and instead I got some dork wanking the Harmonic Minor scale until it bled. The funny thing is, the best track on this album, "Miles of Machines", is the best track simply because it makes no pretences of being a song. It's just Jeff Loomis sweeping for no reason, over an awesome background. If the song was 2 minutes shorter, it would fit amazingly as an instrumental piece on a Nevermore album, or even a section in a bigger, longer full Nevermore song. All I can really say in summation is that the wait for Nevermore's next album really seems so much longer after this stumbling mess.